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Have you heard of alkaline ionized water? Do you wonder what it can do for you? The real answer is, not a lot. Here's what you need to know about alkaline water.

In the United States, Essentia Water advertises that every bottle is "pure and smooth tasting" because the water therein is treated with dipotassium phosphate (used in fertilizer and bread baking) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to achieve a distinctly alkaline pH of 9.5. If you happen to be concerned that your health-giving water might actually be more alkaline that some drain clog removers, you're out of luck, however, because the company advises that their water is "too pure to be measured with test strips." The truth is, the sodium bicarbonate adds alkalinity to the water, and the dipotassium phosphate removes it. But why would you need alkaline water, anyway? 

  • Manufacturers of bottled water always tell us that we need to stay hydrated. And that's completely true. However, the average adult only needs about 1200 ml (five cups, not five glasses) of water per day and it's OK if some of it is juice or a caffeinated beverage. We don't need bottle after bottle of store-bought water.
  • Manufacturers of bottled water also tell us that their products hydrate us better than pure water. That's also true. Your body carefully regulates the concentrations of sodium, potassium, and other ions in your blood plasma. It won't absorb water if that means lowering potassium and sodium concentrations below the levels needed for nerves to fire and cells to absorb nutrients. However, you don't necessarily have to get your electrolytes with your water. It's OK to get your electrolytes from food.
  • Manufacturers of alkaline water tell us that their water draws out acidic toxins. That claim is false. Your body doesn't need alkaline water to regulate pH. Your kidneys do that with calcium or an amino acid called glutamic acid, neither of which is found in most brands of alkaline water. 
  • Alkaline water usually doesn't provide two critical electrolytes. Most brands of alkaline water include sodium and potassium. Every cell in your body that responds to insulin takes glucose fuel in by importing sodium and exporting potassium. Without sodium and potassium, insulin simply doesn't work. However, your body also needs magnesium for nerve function and muscle tone, and chloride (from salt) to break down protein, absorb vitamin B12, and regulate muscle relaxation and contraction. You are more likely to have a shortage of magnesium than shortages of the other three electrolytes. Some spring waters, however, are particularly good sources of magnesium.
  • Manufacturers of alkaline water often claim that raising the pH of your urine will reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and weight issues). Actually, reducing the symptoms of metabolic syndrome raises the pH of your urine, as will simply eating less protein.
  • Alkaline water cannot, as some companies claim, raise blood pH by "40 to 70 percent." Healthy blood plasma pH ranges from 7.35 to 7.45. Raising the pH of the blood above 8, just about 8 percent higher than normal, usually results in death.
  • Makers of alkaline water also make many other false claims. Alkaline water doesn't increase the potency of vitamin C. It doesn't lower your blood pressure unless you have a relatively rare deficiency of sodium and/or potassium. And the excess sodium in alkaline water can actually interfere with bone health, not improve it.
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