Alkaline water is one of the latest trends making its way around health circles. It’s promoted as fighting cancer, boosting weight loss, building bones, slowing aging, managing chronic conditions, and preventing acid reflux.
We all know that drinking water is important for our health. But can alkaline water claim benefits over regular water?
What is alkaline water?
In case you’ve forgotten your high school chemistry, alkaline substances have higher pH levels and less acidity. Regular drinking water generally has a neutral pH—around 7—while alkaline water comes in around 8 or 9. Alkaline water can come naturally from springs or can be processed to boost alkalinity levels.
Morton Tavel, MD, clinical professor emeritus at Indiana University School of Medicine and author of Health Tips, Myths, and Tricks: A Physician’s Advice, isn’t sold on the benefits of alkaline water.
“If you believe the marketing hype, alkaline water can increase your energy, boost your metabolism, hydrate you better than regular water, prevent digestive problems, neutralize acid in your bloodstream, help your body absorb nutrients more effectively, promote weight loss, prevent bone loss, and even slow aging,” he says. “But there is actually no scientific justification for imbibing alkalinized water.”
He says that unless you have certain conditions such as kidney or respiratory disease, your body will maintain a healthy pH balance. “Your body wants something close to neutral, and it has numerous ways of achieving it.”
For example, your stomach acids will naturally neutralize alkaline water. And if your blood becomes too acidic, you’ll breathe out more carbon dioxide to achieve balance.
Is it really beneficial for cancer treatment?
Jonathan Stegall, MD, an integrative oncologist with The Center for Advanced Medicine and author of Cancer Secrets, says, “There is a lot of information on the internet regarding alkaline diet and alkaline water as an anticancer treatment.”
That’s because the area around cancer cells tends to be acidic, so people claim that cancer can’t survive in an alkaline environment. But drinking alkaline water likely won’t affect this acidity. “The kidneys regulate the body’s pH within a narrow range,” Stegall says. “There is no credible evidence for these claims.” The American Institute for Cancer Research agrees.
Awaiting further research
It’s possible that future studies will link higher alkaline levels with health benefits. The research simply isn’t in yet.
- The BMJ reviewed 8,278 citations and 252 abstracts linking alkaline water and cancer, and found only one they considered to be both statistically significant and clinically relevant — and it didn’t find a strong link between pH and bladder cancer.
- A study linking alkaline water and weight loss included just four subjects — all recruited from friends of one of the study’s authors — and no control group comparing people drinking regular water.
- A Nutrition Journal study found “no evidence that an alkaline diet is protective of bone health.”
Small studies show there are some benefits
There are, however, some areas where alkaline water could be beneficial, according to research.
- A study published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology reports that alkaline water might help people with reflux disease. But for people without reflux disease, alkaline water might be a bad choice. “There is concern that alkaline water taxes the stomach in an unhealthy way, since the stomach needs to be quite acidic to help our bodies digest food properly,” Stegall says.
- A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that alkaline water may lower blood viscosity after exercise. That means blood could flow more efficiently through the blood vessels.