We all know that hydration is essential—and water is key. While some may have a preference between flat or sparkling, chilled or room temperature, some swear by another option: alkaline water. Alkaline water simply has a higher pH than regular drinking water—and it’s especially trendy on the wellness scene right now. But is it worth it? Here, experts explore the hype.
Isn’t water just water?
For starters, drinking any water at all beats not getting enough. “Many of us walk around sleepy and irritable without realizing that it could be dehydration that’s keeping us from feeling our best,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN and author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table. There’s no doubt that water is the best source of hydration and it wears a clean label. There are no calories, sodium, fat, sugar, or anything we can complain about putting into our bodies.
But, not all waters are created equal. Some popular waters on the market contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and chemicals that could harm more than help.
“The idea of alkaline water is that it has a higher pH level (approximately eight to nine) than ‘normal’ drinking water, which has a pH [level of] approximately seven,” says Alix Turoff, MS, RD, CDN, CPT. The thought is that because of its higher pH, it might be able to neutralize the acid in the body. “For some people who have acid reflux, this type of water might (and I mean might) be helpful,” says Taub-Dix.
Smaller studies associate alkaline water with the ability to enhance water absorption, improve skin, and help clean your colon. But an association isn’t a cause. So, before you load up on alkaline water, try drinking more tap or bottled water. Hydration with standard H2O has proven to provide similar benefits. “In terms of skin/colon benefits, those are associations that were pulled from these small studies, so it’s really just researchers/people saying “this MIGHT happen, because if you have enhanced water absorption, then theoretically, you’d have skin/other benefits,” says Turoff.
What are the benefits?
“There are claims that [alkaline water] may have anti-aging properties, aid in weight loss, provide cancer resistance, and [that it] has a host of detoxifying properties,” says Turoff. “Again, we need more research. It might provide some value for athletes as the minerals can decrease urine output, allowing them to hold more urine,” says Turoff. Conversely, this could be dangerous for anyone with kidney issues. One study suggests that alkaline water might have benefits for people with diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors. As mentioned, the water may relieve some symptoms of acid reflux, too.
So, is it dangerous?
We don’t really know, yet. “It seems to be safe, but some negative side effects might be a lowering of stomach acidity, which is needed to kill bacteria and pathogens. Excess alkalinity may cause gastrointestinal issues, as well,” says Turoff.
Basically, it doesn’t seem like drinking alkaline water has much of a positive or negative effect on your body. It’s probably safe, but at the same time, the health claims are still unsubstantiated. Save your money (and your worry) and drink regular filtered water, instead.