By now you know staying hydrated by drinking water is key to staying healthy. And with so many companies bottling it up, at some point you may have wondered “is alkaline water better for you than regular water?” or “is natural water healthier than tap water?”
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Maybe you saw an ad or came across some clever marketing messaging claiming alkaline water can increase your energy, hydrate you better than regular water, prevent digestive issues and disease — or even slow down aging.
“Science does not support these claims,” registered dietitian Beth Czerwony MS, RD, CSOWM, LD, says.
“This is a case where a company wants to sell a product, takes regular water and walks it through the process of ionization, maybe slaps a ‘natural’ label on it, charges a high price and ultimately takes advantage of the fact people want to believe it’s worth more than what it is,” she says.
How do we know this is hype?
Bottled alkaline water claims aren’t proven — or even good for you
According to Czerwony there are a few important facts about alkaline water you should know:
- Your body in general prefers a pH that’s closer to neutral (not more alkaline) — and it has its own ways of achieving it.
- There have been no empirical studies showing that alkaline water has health benefits. “If and when there are, they’ll be worth discussing,” Czerwony says.
- Creating pH extremes in either direction in your system — whether too acidic or too alkaline — can cause health problems.
How alkaline water became a thing
Here’s how companies are selling the concept.
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. This makes the water more alkaline and less acidic.
Marketers claim this offers numerous health benefits like improved digestion, slowing down the aging process, boosting the body’s mineral content and preventing bone loss. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has denied the use of claiming any health benefits of alkaline water relating to bone health, for example because of insufficient evidence.
They also claim alkaline water works as an antioxidant to prevent cell damage that leads to disease.
“But such claims have not been properly tested in controlled scientific studies,” Czerwony says. “And what’s worse — some run counter to what science tells us about the body.”
Your body does it better anyway
Unless you have certain conditions such as kidney or respiratory disease, your body maintains a healthy pH balance on its own.
“Our bodies are amazing machines,” she says. “If there’s an imbalance there are many ways your body can correct it. If your blood becomes too acidic for example, 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. Not only does this make any resulting benefits from alkaline water unlikely — skewing your body’s pH balance too far on the alkaline side can do damage over time — particularly by throwing off the digestive process.
Hydration is crucial for health, of course. But because credible research backing the benefits of alkaline water’s claim as being “more hydrating” is lacking, Czerwony recommends sticking with plain water.
“Water is great,” she says. “Just don’t fancify it. Your body is perfectly capable of doing what it needs to adjust your pH levels so you don’t need to buy into these unproven claims.”