The Science and Facts Behind the Alkaline Water Fad

When it comes to hydrating, water is water. That’s true whether you’re a fan of spring, purified, mineral, artesian, or good old well water. But when you throw recent newcomer to the health scene alkaline water into the mix, things tend to get a little more complicated. That’s because, as fans of alkaline water will be quick to point out, the above-average liquid does a lot more than hydrate; it might very well do everything from promote a healthy bloodstream to slow down aging. Might. Here’s everything you need to know before you swap out your Brita for an alkaline pitcher.


What Is Alkaline Water?

Closeup shot of a man pouring a glass of fresh water from a kitchen faucet

Alkaline water has a ton of – you guessed it – alkalizing compounds. This includes components like calcium, silica, magnesium, and bicarbonate. And because it has a higher pH than tap water (the pH scale runs from 0 to 14, and alkaline water has a pH level between about 7 and 9.5), alkaline water is considered to be effective in helping balance and maintain a healthy pH level in the body by reducing acidity.


Can It Improve My Health?

Close-up of bottle with pouring water. Selective focus, shallow DOF.

Because of its regulation of your body’s pH levels and its high nutrient and mineral content, alkaline water is touted for a number of benefits, including strengthening your immune system, energizing the body, boosting metabolism, improving skin, detoxing, and even preventing cancer. Alkaline water is also considered to have a “super hydrating” quality, by which even the level of hydration that you get from alkaline water is higher than regular water because it may allow higher retainment of water in the cardiovascular system.

Of course in some cases, the benefits of alkaline water come down to its actual pH level. So while water with a pH of just under 8 is alkaline, studies show that once the pH level hits 8.8, alkaline water can help soothe acid reflux by killing pepsins.


Does It Actually Work?

Alcoholic Gin and Tonic with a Lime Garnish

Well, that’s the catch. While alkaline water is linked to all of these benefits, there’s actually very little tangible evidence to confirm a lot of the claims. In the case of fighting or preventing  cancer, for example, there are really no studies that substantiate the claim, and the American Cancer Society doesn’t recommend alkaline water as any kind of valid preventative measure. The same goes for claims about alkaline water’s positive effect on reducing bodily toxins, protecting the body from pathogens, and reducing the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s by reducing what’s called advanced glycation endproducts, or AGEs.

That being said, there is some hard evidence to support at least a few health benefits, including alkaline water’s ability to reduce cholesterol, which was confirmed by a 2001 study in the Shanghai Journal of Protective Medicine, and it’s ability to improve acid-base balance and boost hydration, which was confirmed by a 2010 study The Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine.

But with so little evidence in the way of alkaline water’s overall health benefits, it’s probably safe to say that you’ll be just fine sticking to your usual tap water for now. (A.k.a. maybe water is water, after all, even with alkaline in the equation.)

About Tamara Rahoumi

Tamara Rahoumi is a writer on The Path Editorial Team. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in magazine journalism at NYU. Her passion for wellness always has her researching the latest fitness trends, experimenting with recipes from superfood cookbooks, and working towards an overall healthier and happier lifestyle. In addition to reading her articles on The Path, you can follow her adventures on her lifestyle blog, The Curly Nomad.