Q: I’ve heard more alkaline water is better for my health. Should I spend the extra money to buy bottled water with higher alkalinity?
A: “Alkaline water” is now everywhere. Many companies print the pH level on the bottle and then claim that their water—and theirs alone—will change your life (at a price premium).
My overall advice is this: Drink water. Any water. Water water water. All day, every day. For energy, great skin, weight loss, and more. Whether or not that water is alkaline is sort of besides the point.
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There is very limited evidence that more alkaline water may have some small benefits, which I’ll explain below, but the research is inconclusive. There’s also no evidence that drinking alkaline water will hurt you, so if you’re intrigued, I won’t stop you, as long as you’re getting in those 64 ounces.
Here’s what you need to know.
PH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is, on a scale of 0 to 14. 0 is the most acidic, 7 is neutral, and 14 is the most alkaline. Foods can be acidic or alkaline; water is usually around neutral but can lean more acidic. Alkaline water has a pH above 7.
Proponents of alkaline diets believe a diet high in acid-producing foods makes your body acidic, which leads to illness and weight gain. The science, however, generally shows their reasoning is bogus. First of all, the body is really good at regulating pH on its own—in fact, it has to keep you alive. Your lungs and kidneys are working on the task around the clock.
In addition, many acid-forming foods—like meat, oats, and some nuts—are healthy. (FYI the alkaline diet is mostly really healthy by default, since alkaline foods include green veggies, most fruits, beans, spices, and seeds. In other words, if you’re eating a healthy, plant-forward, whole foods diet, it will naturally include primarily alkaline foods.)
What About Alkaline Water?
So where does water fit in? There are claims that drinking it increases overall body alkalinity, which may be true, but “body alkalinity” is not linked to better health outcomes overall (and remember the earlier point about the body’s internal regulation system that’s already always cranking).
There is some evidence that alkaline water banishes AGEs (compounds linked to inflammation) in rats and that it may protect from pathogens by influencing bacteria in the gut—but all of the research claims are incredibly weak and speculative.
The most solid research out there doesn’t show big, exciting benefits. It shows small benefits for specific people: for example, drinking alkaline water may help patients with reflux disease.
Of course, the science so far also shows there’s no reason not to drink it. So if you want to shell out the extra cash to see if it helps improve a health issue you’re experiencing, go for it. Just do so while empowered with your new knowledge of the pH scale.