Should you be drinking alkaline water?

What to know about the much hyped health trend.
Is alkaline water better for you than regular tap? Photo: ISTOCK

You might have heard the buzz around alkaline water. The mineral-rich, low-acidic water is said to give you energy, balance the pH levels in the body and even slow down aging and prevent cancer. 

 

First, a bit of chemistry. Alkaline means “having the properties of an alkali,” which is a chemical compound that neutralizes acids. The terms “alkaline” and “basic” are almost interchangeable, except for one difference: alkali are soluble in water, but bases aren’t.

 

Because alkaline water contains alkalizing minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, it’s a less acidic beverage than tap water. According to Healthline, alkaline water has a pH balance of 8 or 9, while most regular tap is closer to 7 (neutral). More chemistry: “pH balance” is a measure of how basic or acidic a substance is on a scale of 0 to 14, with 14 being the most basic, or alkaline, and 0 being the most acidic. 

 

The idea is that by drinking alkaline water, you can lower the levels of acidity in your body. We know that too much acid can cause uncomfortable conditions such as acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion — that’s why folks take antacids, such as Tums or Mylanta, to neutralize the high acid levels (1.5 to 3.5 pH) in the stomach. Could alkaline water function the same way?  A 2012 study published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology did show that water with a pH balance of 8.8 effectively neutralized stomach acid, making it a treatment for subjects suffering from acid reflux. 

 

However, the notion that alkaline water could alter the pH balance of your body might be a reach. In a WebMD article about the alkaline diet, which cuts out high-acid foods like coffee, meats, and dairy, Dr. Melinda Ratini told the site that “nothing you eat is going to substantially change the pH of your blood” (which has a pH of around 7.4) because “your body works to keep that level constant.” 

John Berardi, the founder of Precision Nutrition, wrote in the Huffington Post that “focusing on the pH level of our water is sort of besides the point.” Instead, the potential health benefits of alkaline water “might be due to the minerals it contains rather than its pH level, per se.” Those could certainly contribute to the claim that alkaline water is energizing. 

As for some of the other claims: According to LiveStrong, there are currently no peer-reviewed studies proving that consumption of alkaline water can prevent cancer. Additionally, the American Cancer Society does not recommend alkaline water. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to stay hydrated. If you want to try alkaline water, you can purchase an ionizer system to filter your tap water, or drink one of several popular bottled mineral waters with lower acidity than tap. Here they are, pH balance included, per LiveStrong: Fiji, pH 7.7, Evian, pH 7.2, Eternal Water, pH 7.8-8.2, Waikea, pH 8.8, Iceland Spring, pH 8.8, Essentia, pH 9.5.