Despite concerns about the environment, microplastics, and chemical leaching, the $40 billion bottled water market continues to grow. Part of that success is driven by the popularity of alkaline waters, which companies and celebrity boosters market as a convenience and health drink. Mark Wahlberg, who has a stake in the business, even claimed that his workout recovery time was "cut in half” while drinking alkaline water. We asked health care experts to find out if the health and wellness claims are bogus, or if alkaline water is worth the extra cash.
What Is Alkaline Water?
Alkaline water tends to have a higher pH level, which means it’s less acidic than what comes out of the tap. Typical drinking water has a pH of 7, while alkaline waters sit between 8 and 9 pH. The idea is that this elevated pH level — around the same level as baking soda — can neutralize the acid in your body. In other words, it makes your body more basic (and not in a pumpkin spice latte kind of way).
@drchizikeji Alkaline water #healthtips #doctor #alkalinewater ♬ original sound - Dr. Chisom Ikeji
What Are the (Alleged) Benefits of Alkaline Water?
Alkaline water proponents claim that it can:
- Balance your body’s pH
- Increase energy levels
- Slow the aging process
- Boost hydration beyond normal water
- Prevent chronic diseases such as cancer
Is Alkaline Water Good For You?
"It's far too early to conclusively state that alkaline water has any health benefits, in my opinion," registered dietician DJ Mazzoni told Cheapism. "The early research is promising, but is mostly in questionable medical journals and has not been replicated in large-scale, placebo-controlled studies."
Other experts have been more outspoken in their criticism.
"There is no science to back it up," said Tanis Fenton, registered dietician and epidemiologist at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.
In an interview with The New York Times, Fenton points out that the underlying idea that alkaline water can balance your pH is bogus because acid in the stomach neutralizes it before it enters the bloodstream.
Alkaline water also comes with potential downsides, with some rat studies showing that it can damage heart muscles and impair growth. And then there are the metric tons of plastic that come along with single-use water bottles, which require barrels of oil to produce and contain harmful chemicals that can leach into your water.
This is a friendly reminder that alkaline water is a scam.— Haitham Ahmed, MD, MPH (@haithamahmedmd) November 4, 2021
Human kidneys have been regulating pH for thousands of years. So you don’t need to pay more for alkaline water (despite what the ads tell you).
Clean “regular” water is just fine. 💦
The Bottom Line: Save Your Money
There isn't enough solid evidence to substantiate claims that alkaline water is beneficial, so it makes little sense to pay a premium for bottles of Essentia, DEFY, Path, and other pH-boosted brands. But that goes for nearly all bottled water, most of which is just overpriced, filtered tap water.
"Purchasing a water filter — ideally a whole-house filter — that's proven to reduce contaminant levels like heavy metals and microplastics is the most cost-efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly way to drink clean water," Mazzoni said.