Alkaline water is a growing wellness product category, and in the past few years it's transformed from an extremely niche interest to a mainstream product that you can find in grocery stores and gas stations.
But is alkaline water actually proven in research studies to have any health benefits beyond regular tap water? What does "alkaline" water even mean? How do real users describe the effects of alkaline water? And what's the best alkaline water brand?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review clinical studies on alkaline water and highlight three surprising findings. We'll explain what alkaline water is, how it compares to tap and filtered water, and give our take on the best alkaline water brand.
Is Alkaline Water Healthier Than Regular Water?
There have actually been a number of clinical trials published in legitimate scientific and medical journals testing the health effects of alkaline water.
A 2020 clinical trial found that alkaline water consumption (pH of 9) for 10 months in mice had an anti-aging effect by increasing telomere length (which regulates cellular aging) and significantly reducing reactive oxygen species in blood.
A clinical trial published in the Biology of Sport journal found that athletes who consumed alkaline water had “favourable changes” to hydration status compared with athletes who drank tap water. The group drinking alkaline water also had much more efficient lactate utilization, which suggests that alkaline water use during exercise may potentially improve endurance.
A 2019 research study found that daily ingestion of alkaline electrolyzed water containing hydrogen caused significantly positive overall health effects. Study participants drinking alkaline water slept better and experienced reduced gastrointestinal symptoms compared to the control group.
The pH of the alkalized water was 9.2. It’s worth noting that this study was funded by an electrical appliance manufacturer (that presumably makes alkalizing appliances), so this study may be biased.
A fourth study on high-mineral alkaline water found that its consumption improved anaerobic exercise performance, supporting the potential performance benefits shown in the previously-linked study.
These research studies seem to suggest three main potential benefits from alkaline water consumption: anti-aging effect, improved hydration status, and improved exercise performance.
There does not appear to be any evidence that alkaline water cures cancer, even though many alkaline water brands suggest such with their marketing.
An extensive meta-study published in the BMJ Open journal surveyed clinical trials on alkaline water and cancer and concluded the following: “Despite the promotion of the alkaline diet and alkaline water by the media and salespeople, there is almost no actual research to either support or disprove these ideas.”
Overall we consider the research to be too early-stage to conclusively state that alkaline water is better than tap water for any specific health outcome. However, we hope that more research studies emerge on this topic. If future studies confirm some of the findings cited in this section, we will consider changing our stance.
We Tried Alkaline Water for a Week
As one of the authors of this article (Calloway), I wanted to purchase and try alkaline water myself for the first time in my life.
I bought a 12-pack of Essentia water (which has a pH level of 9.5) and drank it throughout the week in different settings, from during workouts to with meals to while working.
I didn't notice any benefits from drinking alkaline water. My sleep quality, exercise performance and mood did not change whatsoever.
I personally feel like the negative health effects of drinking from single-use plastic outweigh and potential health benefits from alkaline water, so if I were to commit to this lifestyle change full-time (which I don't plan to), I'd purchase some sort of water system to create alkaline water at home.
Alkaline water did not taste better than regular water, in fact this particular brand tasted worse to me than my Brita-filtered water. It was entirely devoid of flavor, much like distilled water.
I do not plan to purchase alkaline water again and would not recommend it to anyone I know.
Real, Unsponsored Alkaline Water User Review
One of the most popular YouTube videos on alkaline water is published by a health and fitness channel called "ListedFit." The creator tries alkaline water for two weeks while keeping his training and diet regimen constant, and explains if he notices any improvement in performance and health:
What is Alkaline Water?
The acidity of water is measured on a scale from 1-14 called the pH scale, with lower numbers being more acidic and higher numbers being more alkaline. Many people aren’t aware of this but pH is actually measured on a logarithmic scale, according to the USGS, which means that water with a pH of 6 is ten times more acidic than water with a pH of 7.
Regular tap water ranges in pH level but generally has a pH level around 7, which is neutral (neither acidic nor basic). Alkaline water typically has a pH level of 8 or higher.
What's the Healthiest Alkaline Water Brand?
While we don't recommend alkaline water overall because we don't believe the current state of the research justifies its cost, for consumers curious about trying alkaline water we recommend JUST Water.
This brand sells water that's naturally alkaline with a pH of 8, but more importantly it's packaged primarily in cardboard and plant materials rather than plastic. We know from medical research that disposable plastic products release estrogenic chemicals, which are harmful to human health, especially for men.
Drinking alkaline water from a single-use plastic bottle, like most brands sell, negates any potential health benefits in our opinion.
Interested consumers can check out JUST Water at this link to the product's Amazon listing.
Why Filtered Water Makes More Sense
In our opinion, drinking filtered water is both healthier and more environmentally friendly than drinking alkaline water.
An extensive medical review published in the Science of the Total Environment journal documented how many different toxic compounds exist in tap water, from bisphenol A (BPA) to perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOAs) to even residual drug ingredients like ibuprofen.
When buying a bottled alkaline water product, there is no way to determine what the contaminant level of the water is. Only by filtering water can you ensure a significant reduction in contaminants.
The Brita Soho (Amazon link here for those interested), is proven in studies conducted by ConsumerLab (an independent research firm) to significantly reduce heavy metal levels and entirely eliminate microplastics from drinking water.
For consumers with a higher discretionary income, we recommend Aquasana's Rhino Whole-House Water Filter as a comprehensive solution that can filter all sources of water in the house. When you install a whole-house filter, it filters water in all taps and all showers throughout the house, so it's the most thorough way to ensure a reduction in contaminants and to ensure purity of drinking and bathing water.