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 2/23/15).  A review of the book, Understanding the Science & Benefits of Alkaline Water - Healing Waters by Ben Johnson.  Evaluating claims made by alkaline water marketers will employ some of the processes of Critical Thinking summarized here (no Java).
  "Alice laughed. " can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 5
Six impossible things about Alkaline Water that promoters want you to believe
1 - Alkalinity of Alkaline Water can survive the digestive system
2 - Alkalinity of Alkaline Water can change your blood's or body's pH
3 - Redox potential of Alkaline Water 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 that absorb or hydrate better
6 - Alkaline Water is better at detoxifying your body or treating health problems 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 unbuffered 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 and other diseases.  This is a tactic to bypass FDA regulations that prevent making direct claims about curing specific diseases without any evidence of effectiveness.
  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 (H2) will have no effect on health.
  Read related topics: Altered Water & Water Scams

What is Alkaline Water

Question from a visitor:

Dear Randy:

Everything I've heard and seen about Enagic's Kangen alkaline water machine are good, but I think it's definitely overpriced.  

I have the machine in my home at this time and am considering sending it back this week.

I read something last night that it's a scam and overpriced and multi-level marketing.   Two of those may be true, but I don't know about it being a scam.  There are a couple of testimonies I saw on GOOGLE, YOUTUBE and one other website that said that the Kangen water ionizer had some health benefits.

What can you tell me about this, please?  Thank you.  Monique

Hi Monique - 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) and Electroreduced Water.  Characteristics attributed to alkaline water include; Live Water, Living Water, Energized Water, Structured Water, Microwater, and Microclustered Water.

Alkaline water results from a process called electrolysis - breaking electrically neutral water molecules (H2O) into two ions - a positive hydrogen ion and a negative hydroxide ion - by using electricity.

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 Ionizers and 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 (2/2015) none of the water ionizers from the companies mentioned above were certified by NSF or the state of California for even basic water treatment capabilities like the reduction of contaminants.

Claims 1 - 3

I combined information from Kangen, Jupiter and Life Ionizers companies. The six main claims made about alkaline water and my response to each claim include:

As part of a review of evidence that is alleged to support health claims of alkaline water, I examined the "Kangen Water Proof Book" (p 46-56).  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 Kidney 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 comments. 
(posted with permission)

Dear Randy,

Thank you for the information. I was not aware that Kangen representatives were 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 acid-base balance.

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.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology
Indiana University School of Medicine

  1. 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 (Na+  OH- - the primary ingredient in many drain cleaners) formed during electrolysis 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.
    H+ Cl- + Na+ OH- NaCl- + 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 dissolved salt which results from the neutralization process will have any special properties when it is absorbed.

    > 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 this article 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 our bodies.".  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 next 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 {bicarbonate, HCO3 ¯, 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."

    I wrote Dr. Stephen Lower, a retired chemistry professor who has a website devoted to exposing water-related scams and obtained his permission to reproduce his summary of alkaline water claims.

    Our blood and most other intercellular fluids are always alkaline; this condition is maintained by a variety of exquisitely integrated mechanisms that have developed over several million of years of mammalian evolution.  For individuals having normal kidney function, there is no way that blood- and body pH can be influenced by diet; if this were not true, few of us would survive infancy!

    As I explain in much more detail at, the alkaline water craze is based on several false ideas that are widely propagated by commercial hucksters.  Contrary to their claims:

    1) There is no such a thing as "the body's pH". A wide range of pH values from highly acid to moderately alkaline can be found in different parts of the body, and even in different regions of a single cell.  It is true, however, that most intercellular fluids such as blood and lymph, are slightly alkaline.  You can find a fairly understandable discussion of this subject here.

    2) There is no need to ingest a base (such as "alkaline water") in order to neutralize the acids naturally present in most foods or their metabolic products.  Most of this "excess" acid ends up in the form of carbonic acid which is exhaled in the breath as carbon dioxide.  Any remaining imbalance is removed by the kidneys which adjust the urine pH as required.

    3) Drinking alkaline water will have zero effect on the pH of any of the fluids with which most body cells are in contact.  The pH of the blood itself is maintained largely by bicarbonate buffering and by adjustment of urinary pH by the kidneys.  Consuming large quantities of alkaline water can interfere with protein digestion in the stomach, which only takes place under highly acidic conditions.  It can also alter the balance of intestinal flora in the bowel, which may have good, bad, or indifferent consequences.

    4) The statement made by many promoters of alkaline water that cancer cells thrive under acidic conditions is extremely misleading.  It's really the other way around: cancer cells tend to *produce* acidity because their more primitive nature causes them to metabolize anaerobically, and often because they typically have an inadequate blood supply.

    5) Most of the water that enters the stomach is not taken up until it enters the intestine, where it is neutralized and made alkaline by the pancreatic fluid.  So in a sense, "all" the water one drinks is alkaline!

    This sounds reasonable until you realize, first, that 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 alkalosis, 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. 

    Even more pertinent to this discussion, simply taking a few extra deep breaths (hyperventilating) is enough to raise the pH of your blood - you don't need a $1,000 to $4,000 machine.  As soon as you stop hyperventilating, however, your blood pH level returns to normal - the temporary change in pH is exactly the same as would occur from a change in bicarbonate levels after drinking alkaline water.
    Reference 1, "Hyperventilation causes a loss of carbon dioxide from our body which makes the blood more alkaline.  In this alkaline environment our hemoglobin, which are the buses that carry the oxygen that we breathe, now has a harder time releasing the oxygen to the cells. As a result, the cells get less oxygen..."
    Reference 2, Reference 3

    The pH of blood or 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. 

    This article does a good job of addressing the myth that what we eat or drink will normally have an effect on the pH of our blood and cells, as does this article.  Another article from the Washington Post discusses pH and health myths and concludes, "The human body has a range of pH values that span a full spectrum of levels, roughly from 2 to 8.  The idea that you need to neutralize acid in your body by regulating your pH level — and that you should drink alkaline water to do so — is “not based on credible science,” says Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  “The body can maintain the proper pH independent of diet,” she adds."

  2. Redox potential, not pH, is the crucial factor: So now it's not really pH at all but the redox potential of alkaline water that's important.  The claim is made (search on 'orp alkaline water') 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, and none of the original OH¯ ions ever make it into the body except as part of 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.  These descriptions are like chaff 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 radar screens 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 chaff".

    Alkaline water marketing appears to be based on the strategy that overwhelming potential customer with so much scientific-sounding explanations will make their product seem more effective.  It is obvious that the marketers count on the fact that nearly all of their potential customers don't have a chance of really understanding the claims that are made.

  3. 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!"  (search on 'ionized water antioxidant' to read claims)

    Ask any sales person exactly how the alleged antioxidant properties of alkaline water work at the cellular level and how those properties can be preserved through the digestive system and absorption into the body as individual neutral water molecules (not as ions). "Claims that "ionized" waters are antioxidants are untrue; hypochlorites (present in most such waters) are in fact oxidizing agents." (Stephen Lower, chemist)


Claims 4 - 6

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 radicalsThe 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."

  1. 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.

    Even if dissolved hydrogen (H2) had some biological effects, there is the problem of transporting it to the cells.  Blood that absorbs materials from the intestines is collected in the hepatic portal vein where it travels through the liver to the inferior vena cava and then to the heart where it is pumped to the lungs.  In the lungs (and before the blood reaches most of the body) any gases that might have been absorbed from the intestine - Hydrogen from alkaline water or  Oxygen from oxygenated water - become equilibrated with the air that is breathed.  In other words, even if extra hydrogen or oxygen molecules were absorbed, they would disappear in the lungs before the blood ever reached the rest of the body.

  2. 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."

    Another problem with this claim is that 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 actually formed - which they don't).  This quote also demonstrates a complete ignorance about chemistry, physiology and biology - there is no evidence that water molecules in the blood, plasma or cells form stable clusters that have some magical properties. 

    There is, also, 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.

  3. Healing Properties: "The only 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 power." quote link

    The 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 advertising, 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 and approved by the FDA. 

    Promoters of these products have not demonstrated any such proof despite such meaningless statement as "There 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 evaluate the claims and clinical studies used to 'prove' the effectiveness of Alkaline Water here.

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.

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. If a person's body is not able to automatically regulate pH within normal limits they need medical assistance - not a water ionizer.


Despite company claims to the contrary, the water ionization process appears to be standard water electrolysis, which is described in great detail this site:
Stephen Lower, Chemist: "Ionized" and alkaline water: Snake oil on tap" and also on these sites.

Water ionizers produce two kinds of water: "alkaline water" containing sodium hydroxide (commonly 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 water treatment, for example, the on-site Sodium Hypochlorite Generating System of the Daytona Beach Ralph Brennan Water Treatment Plant.

I cover similar types of products and their claims in some detail in discussions about altered water and water scams.  The problem 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

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 alkaline-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, "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 PubMed search 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 alkaline water.  The results are described here.  In short, I found no credible evidence to support any health claims for drinking alkaline water.  I also found no evidence to support even the most basic claim that drinking alkaline water is able to change pH anywhere in the body.

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.  However, there are at least eleven reasons that testimonials can not be trusted to provide reliable supporting evidence for claims that a particular product can cause specific health effects.

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 papers to demonstrate 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 test.

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 they 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. 

    Copyright © 2005, Randy Johnson. All rights reserved.


Updated April 2015