Clean, pure water is a cornerstone of good health. Your body is mostly water, so the ongoing intake of water is essential to your every function.
It’s common knowledge that most water sources are now polluted, but there is tremendous confusion about what kind of drinking water is the most health promoting, and what kind of home water treatment produces the best drinking water.
But beyond water filtration, there’s also the issue of pH—alkaline versus acidic water. There are quite a few astonishing health claims being made about alkaline water, but are they true?
Most of them are not.
The theory behind alkaline (ionized) water is that it is a powerful antioxidant with surplus electrons that can “mop up” the dangerous free radicals you have coursing through your veins. Marketers claim alkaline water can correct excess acidity in your tissues, which can then prevent or reverse cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.
“Snake Oil on Tap”
There are a plethora of testimonials and so-called scientific studies on the Internet claiming alkaline water will cure your every ill. Many consumers, struggling to make sense of the scientific jargon, eventually throw up their hands in frustration.
In truth, there are very, very few legitimate scientific studies about the effects of alkaline water on human health.
The reality is, most of the circulating information is distributed by clever marketers, with very little scientific validity to back up their claims.
The concept of the acidity or alkalinity of your body—or of water—is based on the pH scale.
PH is simply a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions. In fact, the acronym “pH” is short for “potential of hydrogen.” The higher a liquid’s pH, the fewer free hydrogen ions it has; the lower its pH, the more free hydrogen ions it has. One pH unit reflects a tenfold change in ion concentration—for example, there are ten times as many hydrogen ions available at a pH of 7 than at a pH of 8 .
The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, and a pH of 7 is neutral.
Anything with a pH below 7 is considered acidic, with battery acid being the most extreme example, around 1. Anything with a pH above 7 is alkaline (or basic), with lye at the top of the scale, around 13.
Natural water on our planet ranges in pH from 6.5 to 9.0, depending on surrounding soil and vegetation, seasonal variations and weather, and even time of day responses to sunlight. Human activities further influence the pH of our water, from the barrage of toxic industrial pollutants.
According to an educational website called “Water on the Web”:
“Pollutants in water can cause it to have higher algal and plant growth, as a result of increased temperature or excess nutrients, causing pH levels to rise. Although these small changes in pH are not likely to have a direct impact on aquatic life, they greatly influence the availability and solubility of all chemical forms in the lake and may aggravate nutrient problems.
For example, a change in pH may increase the solubility of phosphorus, making it more available for plant growth and resulting in a greater long-term demand for dissolved oxygen.”
Most aquatic animals and plants have adapted to life in water with a very specific pH, and will die from even slight changes. A pH below 4 or above 10 will kill most fish, and very few animals can tolerate waters with a pH below 3 or above 11.
With living systems being so sensitive to changes in pH, it should comes as no surprise that YOU, as another living organism on this planet, would be sensitive to your water’s pH as well.
Guidelines for the pH of Your Drinking Water
So, what are the recommendations for optimal drinking water pH?
The WHO has published a nearly-600 page document called “Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality.”
In this voluminous tome, you would expect to find everything you’d ever want to know about your drinking water, right?
Well, everything EXCEPT a pH recommendation—there are no health-based guidelines for pH!
They state that pH usually has “no direct impact on consumers,” yet they also write pH is one of the “most important operational water quality parameters.”
They do recommend your water pH be in the range of 6.5 to 8.0 so as not to corrode your pipes—and they’re NOT talking about your body’s plumbing:
It appears that the WHO is more concerned about the pipes in your house than the pipes in your body.
Most likely the optimal pH of the water you were designed to drink is somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5.
Alkalinity Research I: Flora and Fauna
Although the research is clear that alkaline water has detrimental effects on plants and animals, there are not many studies with humans.
A review of the literature turns up a variety of anecdotal evidence about the importance of ph to various living organisms, however, and as you might expect, optimal pH varies, depending on the organism.
The scientific literature indicates pH is important for nutrition and vitality. For example:
- Michigan State University studied greenhouse growth media (including the pH of that media), finding it is extremely important for the media pH to be properly adjusted prior to planting. Too high of a pH (greater than 6.5) increases the chances of micronutrient deficiencies. To low of a pH (less than 5.3) results in calcium and/or magnesium and/or manganese toxicity.
- Ohio State University Extension Service reports that alkaline water affects a plant’s ability to obtain nutrients from the soil and can alter the soil’s pH over time.
- An ecological study in the Netherlands found that an influx of alkaline water led to the demise of a native plant called Stratiotes aloides L.
- Fish chronically exposed to alkaline soft water exhibit signs of stress (sometimes fatal), while fish in alkaline hard water experienced no such adverse effects, according to a study at the University of British Columbia.
Alkalinity Research II: Humans
There has been a great deal of debate about battling cancer by making your body alkaline. This has become a focus of interest as cancer rates have skyrocketed (along with many other chronic, debilitating diseases), while our bodies have become more acidic from our processed-food diets.
The scientific research about the benefits of alkalinity is by no means conclusive.
PH appears to have a major influence on cell mitochondria:
- Normal cells die under extremely alkaline conditions. A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that alkalosis (rising cellular pH) causes alkaline-induced cell death as a result of altering mitochondrial function.
- Another study out of Cornell University states that antioxidants have not proven to be effective against many neurodegenerative diseases, and they state it may be a result of how the mitochondria operate within the cell in certain pH conditions.
There are some scientific studies that really argue against alkalinity, at least with respect to preventing or treating cancer.
Consider the research by Robert Gilles, who has studied tumor formation and acidity. According to Gilles, tumors, by their very nature, make themselves acidic—even in an alkaline cellular structure. In other words, they make their own acidity.
Scientists who are in the process of developing prototypes for potential new anticancer agents that selectively kill tumor cells by interfering with the regulation of intracellular pH, have found that alkaline treatments do NOT have the desired effect—but strongly acidic treatments do.
Talk about fighting fire with fire—they are fighting acid-loving cancer cells with acid!
LESS alkalinity inside a cancer cell seems to be what you want, not more.
So, all of those ionizer salesmen promising alkaline water will lower your cancer risk are completely clueless when it comes to what the scientific research actually shows.
Even more interesting is a 2005 study by the National Cancer Institute, which revisits the use of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to treat cancer. They found that, in pharmacologic doses administered intravenously, ascorbic acid successfully killed cancer cells without harming normal cells. This is yet another example of cancer cells being vulnerable to acidity, as opposed to alkalinity.
It’s clear that the relationship between alkalinity and cancer has been grossly oversimplified by those jumping to premature conclusions—and of course by those trying to profit off your fear.
The bottom line is that alkaline water isn’t cancer’s magic bullet.
Balance is Key
As is true with many things, in the end it’s a matter of balance.
Water that is too acidic or too alkaline can be detrimental to human health and lead to nutritional disequilibrium. This was demonstrated in a Swedish well water study, which found both pH extremes to be problematic.
Your body simply was not designed to drink highly alkaline water all the time.
So I believe it’s best to be VERY careful when it comes to something as foundational as the water you drink on a daily basis. If you get it wrong, you could really cause yourself some major damage.
It makes sense that you are designed to drink water that occurs naturally, which excludes alkaline water with pH levels of 8 and above.
And if you drink alkaline water all the time, you’re going to raise the alkalinity of your stomach, which will buffer your stomach’s acidity and impair your ability to digest food as low stomach acid is one of the most common causes of ulcers. This can open the door for parasites in your small intestine, and your protein digestion may suffer. It also means you’ll get less minerals and nutrients over time—in fact, some of these health effects can already be seen in hard-core alkaline water drinkers.
Alkalinity is also potentially a problem because it is antibacterial, so it could potentially disrupt the balance of your body’s beneficial bacteria.
Water Ionizers are NOT Filters!
It is really important to understand that the ionization process in no way, shape, or form purifies your water. Many of them have additional carbon-based filtration systems added which do offer some improvement.
This is a great article from an unbiased source. Premier Water’s stance has been to drink water for: “drinking water”! Nothing more. If you need vitamins or minerals, eat food! For this reason, we focus on technologies that are superior at removing dissolved contaminants and returning water as close to it’s original form as possible. Systems like the Pureoflow, and Reverse Osmosis are great choices for clean, pure, “natural” H20!
You can find the original article here: Alkaline-water-interview