When you live with the pain of arthritis, you’ll try anything to feel better. So, your interest may be piqued by the marketing of a healthier water. Alkaline water is touted as providing health through hydration, but does it really help? Minerals in water determine its pH. (A pH above 7 is more alkaline; below 7 is more acid.) Some contend that water treated to have a pH of 8 to 10 reduces the body’s acid load, which allegedly improves bone and immune system health, among other benefits.
These claims, though, don’t square with the scientific evidence – or basic biology. Drinking alkaline water doesn’t affect blood pH, which the kidney, lungs and liver keep steady at a normal – and healthy – pH of 7.4. Experts break down some popular claims:
CLAIM: Alkaline water hydrates the body better. A 2016 trial (funded by an alkaline water producer) found alkaline water consumers had lower blood viscosity (a measure of hydration) compared with those who drank standard water.
FACTS: “Blood viscosity isn’t a well accepted measure for hydration. And in this study, body weight change and the concentration of dissolved particles in blood – better-accepted measures – as well as several other measures, revealed no differences,” says registered dietitian Tanis Fenton, an epidemiologist at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine in Canada.
CLAIM: Alkaline water keeps the body from pulling calcium from bones to neutralize the acidic diet Americans eat, and this lowers osteoporosis risk.
FACTS: In a 2011 Nutrition Journal report, Fenton and colleagues reviewed 55 studies of the effects of increased dietary alkaline on bone health. “We found no benefits whatsoever,” she says.
CLAIM: Having less acid to clear gives the liver and kidneys more bandwidth to remove toxins from the body.
FACTS: Stomach acid neutralizes alkaline water before it hits the bloodstream. There are no known benefits of drinking alkaline water, says Fenton. “It is being marketed to help beverage companies make money,” she says.
Integrative dietitian nutritionist Robin Foroutan says there isn’t enough research to know if it has benefits, but it may have risks. “Water that’s too alkaline, above eight, can negatively affect protein digestion and calcium absorption, which could negatively affect bone density,” she says. Studies suggest it also can contribute to digestive problems, Fenton adds.