If you believe the marketing materials, alkaline water can increase your energy, hydrate you better than regular water, prevent digestive issues and even slow aging.
Science does not support these claims, says Beth Czerwony MS, RD, LD, a Cleveland Clinic registered dietitian. “This may be a case where you slap a ‘natural’ label on water and charge double, and people want to believe that it’s worth more,” Ms. Czerwony says.
Alkaline water explained
Alkaline water is commonly produced by an “ionizer,” a device that changes the chemical composition of water.
“The idea is that an ionizer changes the pH level of water,” Ms. Czerwony says. “This makes the water more alkaline and less acidic.” In addition, marketers claim alkaline water works as an antioxidant to prevent cell damage that leads to disease.
“Our bodies are wonderful machines. If there is an imbalance, we have ways to correct it.”
They also claim numerous health benefits: improved digestion, slowing down the aging process, boosting the body’s mineral content and preventing bone loss. But such claims have not been properly tested in controlled scientific studies, and some even run counter to what science tells us about the body.
“There have been no empirical studies showing that alkaline water has health benefits,” Ms. Czerwony says. “If and when there are, they’ll be worth discussing.”
Your body does it better
Unless you have certain conditions such as kidney or respiratory disease, your body maintains a healthy pH balance on its own.
“Our bodies are wonderful machines,” Ms. Czerwony says. “If there is an imbalance, we have ways to correct it. For example, if your blood becomes too acidic, you breathe out more carbon dioxide to bring the levels down.”
In addition, once alkaline water hits your stomach, the gastric juices will neutralize it — another example of natural balancing. This makes any resulting benefits unlikely. Skewing your body’s pH balance too far on the alkaline side can do damage over time, too, particularly by throwing off the digestive process.
“Extremes in either direction — too acidic or too alkaline — can cause problems,” Ms. Czerwony says. “Your body wants something closer to neutral, and it has ways of achieving it.”
Hydration is crucial for health, of course. However, because credible research backing the benefits of alkaline water is lacking, Ms. Czerwony recommends sticking with plain water.
“Water is great,” she says. “Just drink it. Don’t fancify it.”