Are Alkaline Water's Benefits Legit?

Thinking of ditching tap water in favor of this high pH version? Here's what experts want you to know about the supposed alkaline water benefits — and if you need to take them with a grain of salt.

Woman Drinking Alkaline Water
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It seems like every time you walk into the grocery store, there's a new type of bottled water in the tiny fridges next to the checkout aisles. One of the latest: alkaline water.

Alkaline water might sound a bit familiar if you remember anything from your high school chem class, but what's actually in the H2O — and should you drop the extra cash to drink it? Here, experts break down the potential benefits of alkaline water and what you should know before you grab a pack at the grocery store.

What Is Alkaline Water?

Simply put, alkaline water is different from tap water because it's less acidic; it has a pH over seven, meaning that it has a lower concentration of hydrogen ions, explains Alyse Levine, M.S., R.D., the founder of Nutritionbite LLC, a nutrition consulting practice in Los Angeles. Time for a basic chemistry lesson: "All liquids have a measure of acidity, which is determined on the pH scale," says Levine. "The pH measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in the liquid, which is expressed on a scale of 0 to 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."

The Benefits of Alkaline Water

So, are there any alkaline water benefits for your health? A 2012 study published in the journal Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology found that alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 may help soothe acid reflux. The reason: The higher pH level kills pepsin, an enzyme involved in breaking down food proteins and a primary cause of acid reflux. More recentresearch suggests alkaline water may have an effect on longevity; a three-year study on mice found that the rodents given alkaline water had a longer lifespan than those given tap water.

On top of soothing acid reflux, another claimed alkaline water benefit is its ability to neutralize acid in the bloodstream, which could lead to increased oxygen levels and improved energy and metabolism, says Levine.Alkaline water may also contain antioxidant properties, potentially helping with anti-aging and disease prevention; cleanse the colon; rejuvenate the skin; and lubricate muscles and joints, according to Levine. Some studies also suggest that alkaline water might help slow bone loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Sounds great, right? Before you decide to run out and stock up on 24-packs of alkaline water bottles, note that the emphasis should be on the word "claimed." "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." In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — which regulates the bottled versions of the water — has denied the use of claiming alkaline water benefits relating to bone health due to insufficient evidence. It's also important to remember that the longevity research conducted on rodents doesn't mean alkaline water will have the same effects on humans. (One form of H2O that is proven to have a laundry list of benefits? Hot lemon water.)

Okay, so maybe alkaline water isn't the fountain of youth, but the H2O is also known for its ultra-hydrating ability. An Essentia Water-funded study of 100 people found that consuming the company's alkaline water after exercise-induced dehydration rehydrated participants "significantly" more than bottled water with a normal pH. Plus, both Essentia and ZenWTRadd electrolytes, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, to their alkaline waters to amp up the hydration factor. ICYDK, electrolytes balance the amount of water in your body, move nutrients into cells and waste out of them, and help your nerves, muscles, heart, and brain work properly. If your electrolyte levels get too low — such as by sweating during a tough workout — you run the risk of dehydration, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The Takeaway On Alkaline Water

If you stick with standard water, are you really missing out on those extra perks? "I do not recommend alkaline water to my clients," says Luke Corey, R.D., an EXOS Performance Specialist at the Mayo Clinic's Orthopedics and Sports Medicine division. "Regular tap water is just as effective as alkaline water in supporting general health and performance."

If you're already on the alkaline water train, don't sweat it. Even though there aren't any fully substantiated health claims at this point, there aren't any studies showing any negative effects either, which Levine backs up. The one downside: A bottle of alkaline water can cost more than double the price of regular water.

What's more, alkaline water brand ZenWTRhas a smaller environmental impact than other bottled waters on the market; the bottle is made from 100 percent recycled, Certified Ocean-Bound Plastic (aka plastic that was rescued from coastal environments and would have ultimately ended up in the ocean). Each bottle of ZenWTR prevents up to five bottles from polluting the ocean. And the company also donates 1 percent of all sales to ocean conservation and recycling education and advocacy efforts. TL;DR: If you're on the go and don't have access to your alkaline water ionizing pitcher at home, a recyclable bottle such as ZenWTR's is your next best option.

So the next time you're looking to hydrate, don't feel bad about opting for filtered tap water, snagging a bottle of regular H2O, and — if you really love that mineral flavor and are okay with spending a bigger chunk of change — sipping on a bottle of alkaline water.

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