People love alkaline water for its ultra-hydrating, pH-balancing abilities. But before you start sipping the trendy drink, read up on the chemistry behind it
Celebrities like Miranda Kerr and Mark Wahlberg are drinking it to stay hydrated, but is alkaline water really worth the hype? Even more—what the heck is it? (While we're on the topic of alkaline, Is the Alkaline Diet the Real Deal?)
Alkaline water is different from tap because it's less acidic—it has a pH over seven, meaning that it has a lower concentration of hydrogen ions, explains Alyse Levine, R.D., founder of the Eating Reset Plan. Time for a basic chemistry lesson: "All liquids have a measure of acidity, which is determined on the pH scale. The pH measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in the liquid, which is expressed on a scale of 0-14. Anything under seven (think black coffee, orange juice, and vinegar) is acidic, seven is neutral and above seven (like baking soda) is alkaline territory," says Levine.
Alkaline water can be consumed from many sources, including special filters, faucet attachments, and additives that raise the pH. One of the most common (and convenient) ways, though, is through bottled water (such as Essentia or Evamor), sold at most grocery stores.
But are there any perks to drinking it? Since science says the alkaline diet overall is pretty bogus, we were skeptical. But there are actually a few benefits. According to a study in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 can help sooth acid reflux because the higher pH level kills pepsin, an enzyme involved in breaking down food proteins and a main cause of acid reflux.
On top of soothing acid reflux, other claimed benefits of alkaline water, according to Levine, are that it helps neutralize acid in the bloodstream, which leads to increased oxygen levels and improved energy and metabolism; it contains antioxidant properties (anti-aging and anti-disease); cleanses the colon; rejuvenates the skin; and lubricates muscles and joints. Evamor, a popular brand of alkaline bottled water, states that "increased dietary alkalinity reduces body fat and fatigue, protects bones, supports the immune system, and achieves better overall health."
Sounds great, right? Before you decide to run out and stock up on alkaline bottled water and filters, note that the emphasis should be on the word "claimed" when discussing benefits. "There are no substantiated health claims out there," says Levine. "Clinical studies have not yet been able to confidently support these claims, as study results are lacking and overall inconclusive." (One form of water that is proven to have a laundry list of benefits? Hot Lemon Water. Here's 4 Reasons to Drink It Every Morning.)
Okay, so maybe it isn't the fountain of youth. But alkaline water is also known for its ultra-hydrating ability. In fact, Essentia touts that their enhanced water is "more hydrating than the leading bottled water." So are you missing out on extra hydration that you could use during your workouts? "I do not recommend alkaline water to my clients," says Luke Corey, EXOS Performance Dietician at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine. "Regular tap water is just as effective as alkaline water in supporting general health and performance." (Should You Ditch Your Sports Drinks?)
If you're already on the alkaline water train, don't blush too hard—while there aren't any substantiated health claims at this point, turns out, there aren't any studies showing any negative effects either, which Levine backs up. One proven downside though: It costs about double the price of regular water ($2.49 for a 33-ounce bottle of Essentia).
So next time you're looking to hydrate, don't feel bad about snagging a regular bottle of H2O or opting for the tap (and saving a little money in the meantime).