The recent rise in the alkaline water health trend has been pretty hard to miss. We are all aware by now the importance of drinking water on our overall health. It’s required for some key roles including transporting nutrients around the body and waste products to the kidneys, acting as lubrication between joints and bones and maintaining homeostasis.
Over the past few years there’s been an influx of companies selling alkaline water but is it really all it’s creaked up to be or is it simply draining our bank accounts?
What exactly is alkaline water?
Let’s start with the basics. Acidity is measured on a PH scale between 1-14 where 1 is highly acidic, 7 is neutral and 14 is highly alkaline on the PH scale. Alkaline water has a higher PH than regular drinking water and typically sits on the PH scale between 7.4 and 9.5.
There appears to be a common belief (which typically has been heightened by the media) that alkaline water helps to lower the body’s acidity. The science behind this common misconception is very limited. If you’re a regular Alternatively Healthy reader you’ll know that unless something is scientifically sound, healthcare professionals are unable to recommend it.
The claims associated with drinking alkaline water are far and wide. They range from ‘preventing cancer,’ to ‘slowing down ageing,’ and ‘neutralising the body’s acidity.’
Whilst the evidence is limited there are a few studies on it. One study found that drinking alkaline water with a PH of 8.8 helped to denature pepsin (the stomach acid) and as a result has been proposed to help people who suffer from acid reflux. There is limited evidence on this and more studies are needed to be able to make these claims.
Some other non-scientific claims include: reducing aging, promoting weight loss, lowering acidity and improving skin health. These claims are often based on anecdotal evidence, which tends to filter through the media and social media outlets. These anecdotal findings may be explained by the fact that when people start drinking alkaline water they’re simply increasing their overall water intake, which might be having these health promoting effects, rather than the fact that the water is alkaline water.
So is alkaline water essential for optimal health?
Absolutely not! The body is an extremely clever machine and the kidneys and lungs play a key role in maintaining PH within a very narrow range.
Are there any risks associated with drinking alkaline water?
Evidently there are numerous claims associated with alkaline water, although it’s important to note here that to my knowledge, none of these claims have been approved by EFSA (European Food Standards Authority).
There are a few things to be aware of if alkaline water has become your drink of choice. Drinking too much alkaline water can be associated with metabolic alkalosis, which may lead to confusion, nausea, vomiting and even tremors when consumed in excess.
Some research has also suggested that alkaline water may lower bone resorption in individuals who are calcium sufficient. Finally, there is also a risk that it can lower stomach PH, which can affect digestion and the balance of your gut’s bacteria.
So what can you take away from this? It’s clear to say that as there quite simply is not enough evidence on alkaline water we cannot promote its use. You’re better off saving your pounds to buy a few extra veggies instead!
Koufman, J. A., & Johnston, N. (2012). Potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease. Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, 121(7), 431-434.
Wynn, E., Krieg, M. A., Aeschlimann, J. M., & Burckhardt, P. (2009). Alkaline mineral water lowers bone resorption even in calcium sufficiency:: Alkaline mineral water and bone metabolism. Bone, 44(1), 120-124.