|The Bottom Line:
There is no credible evidence in standard medical or
scientific literature to support claims that alkaline water has any greater
health effects or health benefits than drinking regular water. A
2010 review of available evidence (updated 1/6/13).
Six impossible things about Alkaline Water (AW):
1 - Alkalinity of AW can survive the digestive system
2 - Alkalinity of AW can change your blood's or body's pH
3 - Redox potential of AW has an effect on oxygen radicals in your cells
4 - Ionized water gives you energy by providing lots of oxygen
5 - Alkaline Water has smaller clusters of water molecules
6 - AW is better at hydrating or detoxifying than regular water
All water ionizers use electrolysis to produce an alkaline
(basic) solution, typically sodium hydroxide
(which is used in drain cleaners)
and and an acid solution. The alkalinity of the water
is relatively weak and is neutralized immediately by the stomach contents -
with no change to the pH of the body - thankfully, or the devices would
probably kill the user.
Most of the 'evidence' used to support claims of health benefits for
alkaline water is in the form of
testimonials - someone's individual perception and story of how the
product helped them - instead of well constructed scientific studies.
Passion does not necessarily = truth.
Companies that sell ionizers often use testimonials as evidence to suggest that alkaline
water cures or helps treat cancer, diabetes or other diseases. This
is a tactic to bypass FDA regulations that prevent making direct claims about curing
There is no evidence that water forms stable clusters of any
size, that water clusters are different in alkaline water, or that it would
make any difference if the hypothetical clusters were of different size. Similarly,
dissolved hydrogen will have no effect on health.
Read related topics:
Altered Water &
- Thanks for your question about health benefits of Kangen alkaline water.
I am extremely
skeptical about all alkaline/ionized water machines as well as a number of other
water products for which similar health claims are made.
Other names for Alkaline Water include: Ionized Water,
Antioxidant Water, Electrolyzed Reduced Water (ERW), Electroreduced Water, Live Water, Living
Water, Energized Water, Structured Water, Microwater, and Microclustered
I checked the
Enagic (Kangen) company site as well as the
Jupiter Ionizer site
and Life Ionizer
to look at their claims:
The claims below were extracted from the Enagic/Kangen, Life
Jupiter sites probably in 2008-2009. Interestingly, when I checked the Kangen site in September 2010, some of the details and wording of the claims
had changed. I will continue to use the claims as stated below, because
the promotional materials from distributors still include them.
As of this update (3/2012) none of the water ionizers
from the companies mentioned above were certified by
NSF or the
California for even basic water treatment capabilities.
I combined information from all three companies. The six main
claims made about alkaline water and my response to each claim include:
part of a review of
evidence that is alleged to
support health claims of alkaline water, I examined the "Kangen Water Proof Book"
I noticed a paper titled, Citrate therapy for polycystic kidney disease in rats.
The study was published
by George A. Tanner and Judith A. Tanner in
International, Vol. 58 (2000), pp. 1859–1869. Since
the paper actually had nothing to do with alkaline water, I was
curious why Kangen (or whoever produced the document) reproduced the paper in its entirety (pp 46 -
56) and highlighted sections that allegedly supported the
benefits of alkaline water. I wrote to Dr. Tanner (to ask
him if he had authorized the use of his paper to support
alkaline water claims. He replied with the following
Thank you for the information. I was not aware that Kangen
citing my Kidney International paper to support claims for a
beneficial effect of electrolyzed, alkaline water.
A simple calculation shows that if the pH of water is increased
even to an alkaline pH of 10.5, the amount of base (OH-)
present is, physiologically speaking, inconsequential. A pH of
10.5 corresponds to an OH- concentration of 10-3.5
moles/liter or 0.3 mEq/liter. The typical acid burden on an
average American diet (meat + vegetables) for an adult is about
70 mEq/day. Thus, drinking a liter of electrolyzed,
alkalinized water would buffer less than 0.5% of the acid formed
by metabolism of foodstuffs and would have an undetectable
effect on acid-base status.
Based on my studies in rats, studies of others in experimental
animal models, and recent controlled clinical trials (de
Brito-Ashurst et al. J Am Soc Nephrol 2009;20:2075–2084 and
Phisitkul et al. Kidney Int 2010;77:617–623), there does indeed
appear to be a beneficial effect of alkalinizing salts (e.g.
sodium or potassium citrate or bicarbonate) in animals and
people with various forms of chronic renal disease. The alkali
doses administered in these studies are very much larger than
can be obtained from electrolyzed water and do have an impact on
Although I have not researched the topic (as you have done), I
am very skeptical of any claims for a beneficial health effect
of electrolyzed, alkaline water. My
Kidney International study does not support the health claims of
the proponents of this treatment.
George Tanner, Ph.D.
Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology
Indiana University School of Medicine
- Ionized Water Balances body pH because
it is very alkaline -
"Maintaining an alkaline pH (6.9-7.2) helps us to maintain
an environment in our bodies that is NOT conducive to disease. It may take
years depending on how acidic your body is, but Ionized Water, because of
its alkaline properties, will flush acid waste from our bodies."
Most alkaline water
representatives don't like to admit this, but the alkalinity in their
ionized water is due to the Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH - the primary ingredient
in many drain cleaners)
if salt is the electrolyte in the water. When this Sodium Hydroxide enters the stomach it is immediately neutralized by the
strong stomach acidity back into water and salt ions.
HCl + NaOH
Cl- + H2O
> There is no reason to expect that the water formed
when the alkaline hydroxide ion is neutralized will retain any
special characteristics (even if it had some to begin with) or that
which results from the neutralization process will have any special
The alkalinity level of the incoming water relative to the acidity of the
stomach acid and to the pH of your body's well-buffered blood are negligible. This means that there would be
almost no resulting effect on
pH of the body. I found
by Dr. Aust which does a good job of describing the chemical and
biological impact of alkaline water in the body. The article concludes,
"For this reason, the pH of the water you drink is completely and utterly meaningless. It has hardly any physico-chemical meaning, and it certainly has zero practical significance."
> Notice the statement "It
may take years depending on how acidic your body is, but Ionized
Water, because of its alkaline properties, will flush acid waste from
There are two problems here:
1) since "It
may take years"
for the product to work and
2) since there is no way to measure the claim
that alkaline water "will
flush acid waste from our bodies.",
there is no way an individual can determine the truth of the claim.
> When the facts above are mentioned to counter alkaline water claims, this
argument is deployed, "By looking at the pH value of the stomach alone, it seems that alkaline water never reaches the body. But when you look at the whole body, there is a net gain of alkalinity
¯, created when HCl is made} as we drink alkaline water. Our body cells are slightly alkaline. In order for them to produce acid, they must also produce alkaline, and vice versa; just as a water ionizer cannot produce alkaline water without producing acid water, since tap water is almost neutral."
This sounds reasonable until you realize,
a healthy body is perfectly
capable of adjusting to pH changes that occur in response to
both normal diet and metabolic processes - if that were not the case, eating would trigger severe
and a little exercise might cause fatal acidosis. If a
person’s body is not able to maintain normal pH levels in response to diet
and metabolic processes they should see a physician as soon as possible and
not look to alkaline water for a cure.
In a 2007 LA Times article, Chris Woolston quotes Thomas Wheeler, a retired professor of biochemistry at the University of Louisville
who stated, "Ionized water might cure thirst, but any other benefits seem extremely far-fetched. The water has never been tested in well-controlled clinical trials."
Claims don't even make scientific
sense. "Any negative ions you drink would immediately bind with positive ions. And even if the negative ions stuck around, they could never act as antioxidants or attack free radicals.
The body relies on molecules like vitamin E and beta carotene for antioxidants. The idea that you could just drink extra electrons is ridiculous."
The claim that ionized water is more easily absorbed than tap water is equally absurd.
"Although water molecules do briefly cluster together, the
clumps eventually fall apart. They have to: Water crosses cell
membranes one molecule at a time."
Wheeler also dismissed the idea that alkaline water could fight disease or restore the body's pH balance. "The body goes to great lengths to maintain its pH, and there isn't much you can eat or drink that will change that."
Second, and more
pertinent to this discussion, simply taking a few extra deep breaths
(hyperventilating) is enough to raise the pH of your blood (by increasing the
bicarbonate level) - you don't need a
$1,000 to $4,000 machine. As soon as you stop hyperventilating,
however, your blood pH levels return to normal - the same thing would happen
pH change were actually caused by drinking alkaline water.
The pH of fluids in the body's cells is
not altered by a normal diet that contains acidic or alkaline
foods or drinks. Any alkaline substance that
enters the stomach will be immediately neutralized by the acid environment.
As the stomach contents pass into the small intestine the acidity is
neutralized by sodium bicarbonate from the pancreas. The stomach must
be acidic to kill microbes and to initiate the process of protein digestion.
- Redox potential, not pH, is the crucial factor
– So now it's not really pH at all but the redox potential of alkaline water
The claim is made
that, "...when you divide tap water with electrolysis
you can see the ORP fluctuate by as much as +- 1,000 mV. By electrolysis we
can obtain reduced water with negative potential that is good for the body. When taken internally, the reduced Ionized Water with its redox potential of -250 to -350 mV readily donates its electrons to oddball oxygen radicals and blocks the interaction of the active oxygen with normal molecules."
Since the only measurable biochemical action of alkaline water is a possible
insignificant and transitory rise in blood pH due to the bicarbonate ion, and
none of the original OH¯ ions ever make it into
the body except as ordinary water molecules, all of the additional discussion about the
redox potential, reduced water and ORP is nothing but misdirection - smoke and
mirrors. A lot authoritative sounding chemical lingo is thrown out that is
completely meaningless and unintelligible to the ordinary consumer. Compare
these descriptions to
dumped out of an airplane to confuse the
enemy. "aircraft or other targets spread a cloud of small, thin pieces
of aluminium, metallised glass fibre or plastic,
which either appears as a cluster of secondary targets on
or swamps the screen with multiple returns. Opposing defenses would find it
almost impossible to pick out the "real" aircraft from the echoes from the
- Ionized Water is a powerful antioxidant
"Since Ionized Water is a liquid antioxidant, it
is easily absorbed into the body which makes it much more effective and
powerful antioxidant. Once the Ionized Antioxidant in the form of Hydroxyl
Ions (oxygen molecule with an extra electron) donates its extra electrons to
free radicals (oxygen molecule that is missing one electron) you are left
with lots of oxygen. Ionized Water gives you Energy by providing your body
with lots of oxygen!"
"Claims that "ionized" waters are
antioxidants are untrue; hypochlorites (present in most such waters) are in
fact oxidizing agents." (Stephen
- Colloidal Hydrogen
"Research focused on dissolved hydrogen released through electrolysis of
water was presented at The Japan Functional Water Association Meeting in
late December of 2002. It reported that Kangen water(TM) is
effective in controlling the oxidation of lipids in the body. It also
reported that dissolved hydrogen present in the colloidal state has a higher
activity level than active hydrogen produced at the instance of reaction."
There is absolutely no evidence in
reputable scientific or medical journals to support the claim that the
relatively minute quantities of hydrogen
gas dissolved in drinking water has (or can have) any biological activity in the body.
- Cluster Size -
"Approximately 15 years
ago, with the help of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) 1 appliance, it was
confirmed that water does not exist in single unit molecules, but forms a
molecular population (cluster) 2 out of approximately 13 water molecules.
These clusters are constantly repeating an aggregation-disaggregation
process. The quality of water depends on the size of its clusters. For
example, small clusters have active molecules that increase the capacity of
water to dissolve elements (solubility), let elements pass through
(permeability), and let heat pass through (conduction). Electrolysis causes
the water clusters to break, and Kangen water(TM)
has clusters made up of five to six water molecules resulting in a lower
molecular weight. This is approximately half of that of tap water
(12-15 water molecules/cluster) and is most beneficial for your health."
The alleged formation of smaller clusters is often used to explain some properties of alkaline water. There is absolutely no evidence in reputable scientific or medical journals
to support the claim that liquid water can be stabilized into any fixed-size
cluster. Even if it
were possible to demonstrate the formation of stable water clusters which would
survive the environment of the stomach and the small intestine where water
absorption occurs, that would not
explain how clusters could possibly be beneficial to health. Water enters
cells as individual molecules, not as clusters, so the obvious conclusion
would be that the formation of stable water clusters (if they existed) would actually inhibit
water absorption not promote it. For some background on where this
notion came from and a critique of the NMR supporting 'evidence' you can
read this article by Paul Shin, Ph.D., an
authority on NMR technology. Dr. Shin concludes his article with "There is no “solid” data to support the proposed
hexagonal structure for water in the liquid state. In this book Dr. Jhon simply does not provide
convincing evidence to support the miraculous properties of Hexagonal Water. Since all “hexagonal” or
“clustered” water claims that can be found have the same dubious basis, the whole concept of hexagonal
water is filled with too many holes to “hold water” for me."
One of the more
ridiculous claims I have seen stated, "The main cancer prevention capacity of alkaline water is found in the property that its molecules stay in smaller clusters than the molecules of ordinary water. Since they’re smaller, these molecules can actually reach finer spaces in the body which normal water molecules cannot reach."
First, as soon as the alkalinity is neutralized in the stomach, there
is no reason to expect that the resulting water molecules would retain
any "alkaline" properties like smaller clusters (if smaller clusters
formed - which they don't). This quote also demonstrates a complete ignorance about chemistry,
biology - there is no evidence that water molecules in the blood,
plasma or cells form stable clusters that have some magical properties.
There is, of course, the minor problem, that alleged stable clusters in
the original alkaline water would need to disassemble so they could be absorbed as individual H2O
molecules, reassemble as stable clusters in the blood, disassemble
again into individual H2O molecules for transport into cells,
reassemble into stable clusters, and then actually do something to prevent
cancer - none of these claims has ever been demonstrated. Finally, the idea that smaller clusters can somehow "reach
finer spaces in the body which normal water molecules cannot reach"
is absurd since the hypothetical clusters would be larger than
individual water molecules and the body does not have a bunch of "finer
spaces" that are inaccessible to water molecules.
- Healing Properties -
aspects of Kangen water(TM) we are allowed to speak of or write
about are abnormal gastrointestinal fermentation, chronic diarrhea,
indigestion, hyperacidity, and the astringent effect. Although these are
the bases of more significant illnesses, speaking of them is against the
law. There are numerous cases in clinical studies conducted by doctors or
pharmacists that found drinking Kangen water(TM) cures various
illnesses. It is also known that driving out active oxygen from the body
with Kangen water(TM) inevitably boosts the natural healing
only Healing Property Descriptions the alkaline water companies are allowed to
get away with,
because of Federal Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission rules
against fraudulent advertizing,
are the vague, non-specific, generalized claims that do not require proof -
as long as they include a disclaimer that the product does not treat
specific diseases. In order to make a claim that a product actually "cures
various illnesses" the claim must be proved by reputable,
reviewed clinical studies. Promoters of these products have not demonstrated any such proof
despite such meaningless statement as
are numerous cases in clinical studies conducted by doctors or pharmacists
that found drinking Kangen water cures various illnesses."
If alkaline water were actually able to cure any disease, these companies
could provide the evidence to win FDA approval and sell the product as a legitimate medical
device (or product). The primary way companies get around the FDA and FTC rules against marketing untested products as cures for diseases is to use
testimonials in which
a satisfied consumer documents how the product has cured a specific disease.
I analyze and these claims and clinical studies
Change Your Water, Change Your Life: A scientific look at one of the
latest multilevel marketing fads: healing water machines, devices costing
thousands of dollars claiming to ionize or alkalize your tap water, and
claiming a dazzling range of health and medical benefits. Sold under such
names as Kangen, Jupiter Science, KYK, and literally hundreds of others,
these machines do either nothing or almost nothing (beyond basic water
filtration), and none of what they may actually do has any plausible
For a product with such miraculous claims, it is
remarkable how little actual evidence there is to support those claims.
There are virtually no papers published in reputable (peer reviewed)
scientific journals that demonstrate either that alkaline water can alter
blood, plasma or cellular pH, is better
for health than regular water or that there are special physical properties
of alkaline water, like smaller cluster size*. There are some papers
referenced on the Jupiter site that describe the ability of the "acid" water
to disinfect - which is not surprising, considering the "acid water" is
basically bleach. Virtually all claims that made about alkaline water
by manufacturers, marketers, and distributors demonstrate a remarkable lack
of knowledge about the physical and chemical properties of water or about
how the body regulates pH. I have reviewed (and continue to review)
all 'evidence' that I can find on benefits of drinking alkaline water review of available evidence.
If the claims were actually true that you
could significantly alter the pH of your blood and cellular environment by
drinking alkaline water (or acidic water for that mater) the devices would
probably kill people. The body has remarkable feedback
mechanisms to keep the pH in various parts of the body within very specific
ranges so that the necessary chemical reactions can take place. If pH
within cells could be arbitrarily altered by something a person ate or drank
during the day the consequences would not be good for health.
Water ionizers produce two kinds of water: "alkaline water"
containing sodium hydroxide (used in drain
cleaner) and "acid water"
containing ordinary bleach. Electrolysis is one
of the processes municipal water companies can use to
produce chlorine for
I cover similar types of
products and their claims in
some detail in discussions about
altered water and
for the consumer, is
that because of the placebo effect some people do experience benefits from
the products despite the fact that they are actually drinking (very
expensive) water with no special properties - beyond the rather
remarkable properties water already has.
I was unable to discover whether or not the
Kangen products have a decent filtration system because I could find no
description of the process, and could not find a certification listing at NSF.org
* There are a few
published papers that seem to suggest that alkaline water has positive
health effects. A promising sounding article, "Anti-diabetic
effect of alkaline-reduced water on OLETF rats",
by Jin D, et. all., Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2006
Jan;70(1):31-7. in which an experimental group of rats was given Alkalin-reduced
water (ARW), and a control group, which received laboratory tap water
concluded that ARW spurred the growth of OLETF rats during the growth stage,
and that long-term ingestion of ARW resulted in a reduction in the levels of
glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol in the blood. I
discovered, however, that the ARW was generated by Alkalogen sticks which
contain magnesium that is released into the water - so the rats were
drinking water supplemented with magnesium.
Coincidently, another paper "Effect of increased magnesium intake on
plasma cholesterol, triglyceride and oxidative stress in alloxan-diabetic
rats", by Olatunji LA, Soladoye AO., Afr J Med Med Sci. 2007
Jun;36(2):155-61., concluded that "these results suggest that diet rich in
magnesium could exert cardioprotective effect through reduced plasma total
cholesterol, triglyceride, oxidative stress and ameliorated HDL-cholesterol/total
cholesterol ratio as well as increased plasma ascorbic acid and magnesium in
diabetic rats." There are a number of papers listed on a
for "magnesium diabetes insulin" including "Implications of Magnesium Deficiency in Type 2 Diabetes: A Review".
Tracking down claims that are made about health
effects of various products in an effort to discover the truth of those claims is much
like a detective who sorts through evidence at a crime scene to try and
figure out "who done it". An early step in the investigative process
is to look through abstracts of scientific and medical journals to see if
studies have been published which support the claims. A published
paper indicates that author(s) discovered sufficient evidence of high enough
quality to convince a reviewer or review panel that that the product affects
health in some way. All scientific and medical journals are not
created equal, however, and some have much less rigorous review processes
than others. The result, unfortunately, is that papers can be
published that are only superficially "scientific".
The paper listed above on the positive effects of ARW,
for example had at least two flaws that would have prevented its publication
in most journals:
1) The study was not blinded
2) The authors neglected to mention whether the control tap water had the
same mineral ion concentration as the ARW water with the added magnesium,
but the methods section did not indicate that any effort was made to add an
equivalent amount of magnesium to the control tap water. If there was
more magnesium in the ARW than the tap water the results would probably have been due
to the benefits of magnesium.
In September 2010 I attempted to locate and
evaluate all evidence that is used to support the health claims of drinking
results are described here. In short, I found no credible evidence
to support any health claims for drinking alkaline water.
Without credible scientific evidence to support
their claims, alkaline water promoters (and those who market other enhanced
water products) use the only resource remaining, testimonials or anecdotal
evidence. Testimonials are individual stories about someone's
experience, and they seem legitimate at first glance - particularly if they
come from someone you know. There are at least
nine reasons, however, that
testimonials can not be trusted to provide reliable evidence to support
Since many alkaline water health claims actually could be validated by relatively simple clinical trials, I simply cannot believe that one of the
alkaline water companies would not have published a number of legitimate scientific paper
that demonstrated the effect of alkaline water on specific health issues. If the
health claims of drinking alkaline water could actually be validated, the impact
on the medical/health industry, not to mention the increase in sales of alkaline
water machines, would be enormous. Any alkaline water company that could
scientifically validate their claims would gain scientific legitimacy, possible FDA approval for
treatment of a medical condition, and would rule the alkaline water industry.
The only reason I can think of that one of the large
alkaline water machine manufacturers has not conducted a legitimate clinical
trial to validate their claims is that it is an impossible task – alkaline water
does not, in fact, perform any differently from regular water in a controlled
You might ask, What is the harm
in all the different alternative health treatments like alkaline water? If the products
don't really do anything except perhaps trigger the placebo response
(and actually make someone feel better), or perhaps help someone feel
like they have some control of their health situation, why criticize the
products? If the only consequences of using products with no
real biological effect (beyond the placebo) were either that there was
no health effect or that someone actually felt better, the main
criticism would be the use of unproven claims and deceptive marketed
practices. Unfortunately, there are more serious consequences.
Most people are wise enough to not use these products in life
threatening situations, and seek real medical treatment if their health
situation continues to deteriorate. However, some individuals fall
completely under the spell of these illusionists and wind up seriously
injured or dead. Tim Farley has developed a site,
What's The Harm?,
that documents what you will never hear in the testimonial-driven
marketing of alternative treatment products.
Let me know if you have additional
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|Copyright © 2005 Randy Johnson. All rights reserved.
Updated November 2011