I WAS QUITE INTRIGUED when I first saw bottled alkaline water on the shelves of our favourite pharmacy.
“Yes,” he replied. “It’s all the rage. Everyone is drinking it nowadays to counter “heatiness”. It’s been touted for its great health benefits too, like preventing cancer.”
Really? I thought. Hmmm
But I bought a bottle nonetheless. It wasn’t cheap. The 500ml bottle cost RM3.80.
The water tasted ordinary, like any other type of water. It wasn’t extra smooth and slightly saline like Evian and it wasn’t extra clear like Diamond. And I didn’t’ feel “cooled” down or rejuvenated.
Not satisfied, I went to another pharmacy and asked for alkaline water.
Your stomach is acidic, he explained. The minute the water goes into your stomach, it will turn acidic. How can the water remain alkaline and do all those wonderful things it has been claimed to do?
True that. The second pharmacist does make a lot of sense if you factor in the science.
Here’s a little recap of chemistry, just in case you’ve forgotten what your teacher taught you in biology class:
You know what pH is right? On a scale of 0 to 14, a pH of 0 is totally acidic. A pH of 14 is completely alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral. Your blood is slightly alkaline. It has a pH of between 7.35 and 7.45 although the ideal is 7.365. Your stomach is very acidic, with a pH of 3.5 or below, so it can break down food. Your urine’s pH changes according to what you eat – that’s how your body keeps the pH level of your blood steady. In fact, your body works to keep your blood pH level constant, ( like your body temperature, which is always maintained at 98° F) and nothing you can eat or drink will substantially change it.
So I decided the scour the web and check out the argument online. Here’s what I found:
Alkaline Water: Benefits and Risks
You may have heard some of the various health claims about alkaline water. Some say it can help slow the aging process, regulate your body’s pH level, and prevent chronic diseases like cancer. But what exactly is alkaline water, and why all the hype?
The “alkaline” in alkaline water refers to its pH level. The pH level is a number that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is on a scale of 0-14. For example, something with a pH of 1 would be very acidic, and something with a pH of 13 would be very alkaline.
Alkaline water has a higher pH level than regular drinking water. Because of this, some advocates of alkaline water believe it can neutralize the acid in your body. Normal drinking water is generally a neutral pH of 7. Alkaline water generally has a pH of 8 or 9.
Water that is naturally alkaline occurs when water passes over rocks – like springs – and picks up minerals, which increase its alkaline level. There are companies that sell products, like ionizers, that claim to make water alkaline through a chemical process called electrolysis. Makers of ionizers say electricity is used to separate molecules in the water that are more acidic or more alkaline. Although some doctors and researchers say these claims are not backed quality research.
A study published by the World Health Organization cautions against drinking low-mineral content water on a regular basis.
Where Do You Get It?
Alkaline water can be bought in many grocery or health food stores. Water ionizers are sold in many large chain stores as well.
You can also make your own at home. Even though lemon and lime juice is acidic, they contain minerals that can change the composition of water. Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime to a glass of water can make your water more alkaline. Adding pH drops is another way to make water more alkaline. It’s important to use distilled water when making alkaline water because tap water or bottled water may have other additives.
Does It Really Work?
Alkaline water is a somewhat controversial topic. Many health professionals argue against its use, saying there isn’t enough research to support the many health claims made by users and sellers. According to Mayo Clinic, regular water is best for most people as there is no scientific evidence that fully verifies the claims made by alkaline water proponents.
However, there are a few studies that suggest alkaline water might be helpful for certain conditions. For example, a 2012 study found that drinking alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 can help deactivate pepsin, which is the main enzyme that causes acid reflux. Another study suggested that drinking alkaline water may have benefits for people who suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Is It Safe?
The issue that many health professionals have with alkaline water is not its safety, but rather the health claims that are made about it.
There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of alkaline water as a treatment for any health condition. Medical experts warn against believing all the marketing claims.
Drinking natural alkaline water is generally considered safe, since it contains natural minerals. However, you should use caution with artificial alkaline water, which likely contains fewer minerals necessary for good health than its high pH would have you believe, and overuse may leave you deficient.
In the end, it’s up to you to weigh both sides of the argument and see which one will hold water for you. Happy drinking either way!