What is alkaline water? First, we have to learn about what alkaline means. Alkalinity and acidity are measured on the pH scale, which is a scale from 0-14 that measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in compounds from batteries to food. Neutral is measured at 7.0, while acids are below 7.0 and alkaline compounds (or bases) are greater than 7.0. Alkaline water is water that measures anywhere above a 7.0 on the pH scale.
Advocates of alkaline water say that it can neutralize acid in the bloodstream, act as an antioxidant, boost metabolism, and even cure or prevent disease. This theory is linked with a popular fad diet, the "alkaline diet." However, research does not support these claims. Unites States tap water is regulated so that it must measure between a 6.5 and 9.5 on the pH scale, but the exact number varies depending on location. Making your tap water more alkaline (or basic) can be achieved by purchasing filters, faucet attachments, or using additives like drops or powders to increase the pH. It can also be purchased at some health food stores.
The body is extremely good at controlling its pH level. Blood pH is sustained between 7.35 and 7.45, which is slightly alkaline, and the body is very good at controlling this level through mechanisms in the lungs and kidneys. If your blood is too acidic, for example, our lungs expel more carbon dioxide (or, we hyperventilate), which helps bring the blood back up to normal. Unless you have medical problems with your lungs or kidneys, blood pH is very well controlled no matter what food or drink you consume.
It is true, however, that the modern diet, high in animal protein and processed foods, creates a significant acid load on the body. Over time, this pattern of eating can stress the balancing system. The best way to reduce stress on this mechanism is to eat plenty of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Alkaline water is simply water that has been altered to increase its pH. Proponents claim that alkaline water has many health benefits, and helps keep the body in an alkaline state. However, the body has systems that keep its pH in tight control, regardless of the kind of water that you drink.
Carolyn McAnlis, RDN, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who has a special interest in preventing chronic disease through nutrition. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science & Dietetics and a minor in Psychology. After completing a full-time dietetic internship at the University of Virginia Health System, she has developed a passion for convincing others that healthy food can be delicious through her blog A Dietitian in the Kitchen.