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Water PH — an important measure of water quality
Life is impossible without water because it performs vital functions in the body (1). Water makes up more than 75% of body weight in infants and about 55% in the elderly. Water dehydration can be lethal and thus, water hydration is critical for survival and cellular homeostasis (2).
Good quality water is indispensable for good health. Contaminated water can be a source of infectious pathogens and may also lead to different chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (3). Therefore, the quality of water is paramount to good health.
The pH of water is one of the significant parameters for testing water quality.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), pH shows how acidic or basic water is. pH ranges between 0 and 14.0. The pH is neutral at 7.0. Water with a pH less than 7.0 is considered acidic, and water with a pH higher than 7.0 is basic (alkaline).
What Is Alkaline water?
According to World Health Organization (WHO), the pH of most drinking water ranges between 6.5 to 8.5 depending on several factors. More acidic natural water can be a result of acid rain, and more basic water(alkaline) can be due to limestones.
Alkaline water also known as alkaline ionized or alkaline electrolyzed water is highly reduced water. It has a pH of 9-10 and a high negative oxidative reductive potential (ORP) (4).
Alkaline water has the following distinct parameters (5).
- A relatively higher pH than regular household water
- Negative redox potential (RP) values
- High dissolved molecular hydrogen
- Low dissolved oxygen
These water parameters are similar to the parameters of water found in natural mountain streams.
Many commercially available high pH water ionizers also add minerals, which are good for health. Water is a good source of minerals because water minerals are in an ionic form, which is easily absorbed by our digestive system (6).
How Alkaline Water Is Produced?
The industrial process to create alkaline ionized water is called electrolysis. A household electrolyzed water generator has the same procedure to produce alkaline water.
The exact procedure differs from system to system, but the main steps remain the same (7).
- The water is filtered to remove contaminants and debris, such as chlorine. Minerals are added to the filtered water.
- The filtered water is electrolyzed with platinum-coated titanium electrodes (anode and cathodes) using a DC electric field.
- On the anode electrode, oxidized water is produced, which is discarded.
- Alkaline water is produced on the cathode and collected for consumption.
Potential Benefits of Drinking Alkaline water
Acid-base balance in the body is important. Too much acidity in the stomach is bad, whereas excess alkalinity is also harmful. The current western diet is more acidic than alkaline.
Research shows that an acidic diet is harmful to health among physically active individuals (8).
An alkaline diet may provide some benefits in lowering morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases by decreasing acidity in the body (9).
The rationale to consume alkaline water is the same— to reduce acidity in the body.
Most of the research on alkaline water benefits has been done in East Asia.
The Japanese ministry of health, labor, and welfare authorized the use of alkaline water for home use in the 1960s. Furthermore, in South Korea and China, alkaline ionized water is becoming popular too.
In the western world, so far no large-scale animal or human studies have been carried out to investigate the benefits of alkaline ionized water.
Is alkaline water good? This question is still a subject of debate in the western scientific community, although the use of alkaline ionized water is becoming popular.
Following are some proposed health benefits of alkaline/ionized water.
Oxidative stress: Oxidative stress can lead to severe chronic diseases. The highly reduced water is suggested to possess antioxidant properties.
Several in vitro studies were conducted on different cell types to show the antioxidant function of alkaline water.
For example, In vitro studies show that electrolyzed-reduced water can protect from DNA damage-induced due to oxidative stress (10).
Other in vitro studies found alkaline reduce water to be effective against oxidative stress in nerve cells (11).
A study indicated that alkaline water may provide better antioxidant activity compared to hydrogen dissolved water (14).
Dehydration: Alkaline water can be beneficial in restoring hydration after exercise-induced dehydration. Various research studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of alkaline water for rehydration.
These studies have submitted that alkaline water with minerals can be superior to regular water in recovering from dehydration after athletic activity. The use of alkaline water also improved blood viscosity in the participants (15,16).
Gastrointestinal relief: Several studies on the use of alkaline water proposed that alkaline water intake is beneficial in reducing symptoms of several gastrointestinal problems (17).
- Stomach discomfort
- Abdominal bloating
In a study on reflux disease, high alkaline water (pH 8.8) can inactivate pepsin. Pepsin is an enzyme in the stomach for the digestion of proteins and one of the causes of reflux disease (18).
Diabetes: Alkaline ionized water may be useful in diabetes. In animals, alkaline water with high pH can protect against cell death and diabetes mellitus by minimizing oxidative stress (19).
In animals, both type1 and type 2 diabetes were better managed with the use of alkaline water (20).
The use of alkaline water lowered glucose levels. The use of alkaline water also reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels (21).
Longevity: Research in nematodes(roundworms) and rats showed an increased lifespan after alkaline water intake due to a reduction in oxidative stress (22,23). Large-scale studies in more complex organisms are needed to see the benefit of alkaline water in improving longevity.
Immune response: Preliminary animal studies describe the use of alkaline water can influence the intestinal immune system, but no evidence was found for the entire body’s immune system (24).
Water taste: Alkaline water may enhance taste perception. Although not strictly a health benefit, one research found that alkaline ionized water improved the taste of water (25).
However, the study did not explore whether taste improvement affected water intake due to changes in perception of taste.
Although current studies show a potential for several health benefits, many studies were done in animals and in vitro models. Comprehensive studies in humans are lacking.
Is Alkaline Water Safe?
Alkaline water is safe to consume. Currently, no serious adverse health effects of electrolyzed alkaline water have been reported by accessible scientific literature.
Research on dehydration using electrolyzed, high-pH (alkaline) water in the USA did not find any adverse effects
You should consult your doctor if:
- You plan to consume alkaline water long term
- You suffer from any medical condition or take medication
Buying Alkaline Water
If you want to consume alkaline water, avoid consuming sparkling or bubbly water because it has carbon dioxide which lowers the pH making it more acidic.
Alkaline water is available in bottled alkaline water form with a defined pH and mineral content. Some supermarkets and online stores sell alkaline water.
Alternatively, alkaline ionization machines are sold online or in supermarkets. These provide a long-term solution. Always buy your alkaline water machine from trusted sources.
Alkaline water has high pH and more mineral content than regular water.
Water pH is one of the most important parameters to judge the quality of water.
Alkaline water is becoming popular due to proposed health benefits in immunity, diabetes, oxidative stress, gastrointestinal relief, and dehydration. These benefits are still the subject of scientific debate.