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Does Alkaline Water Really Live Up to its Big Promise?

Jul 11, 2016 03:51 AM EDT

Alternative health experts, and even celebrities, believe that alkaline water can do wonders for your health.

Some of the known health benefits include slowing the aging process, boosting energy, helping treat fertility issues, regulating the body's pH levels and reducing the risks of some chronic diseases like cancer.

But what exactly is the difference between alkaline water and regular water? And does it really hold up to all the hype?

Alkaline water is different from regular tap water in that it is less acidic. It usually has a pH level of over seven, which means that it has a lower concentration of hydrogen ions. Water could become alkaline either by seeping through rocks and picking up minerals such as calcium and magnesium in the process, or by being manufactured in a laboratory, adding minerals to raise its pH level.

Alkaline water is particularly popular in Los Angeles, where it is being sold in bottles, flowing from gym drinking fountains or mixed into fruit beverages. And it is mostly on the pricey side. According to Martin Riese, who creates the water menus for the Patina Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, people always prefer alkaline water.

"In L.A., you always hear of health and youth. Everybody thinks alkaline water is the fountain of youth," he said in a story published in the L.A. Times.

But while alternative health experts continuously emphasize the many benefits of drinking alkaline water, Dr. Zhaoping Li, chief of the clinical nutrition division at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), there is little scientific evidence that drinking alkaline water has an effect on health, apart from temporary heartburn relief.

"With all those systems working together [to maintain] blood pH, it doesn't matter what kind of water you drink - pH is stable in a healthy person," Li told the L.A. Times.

According to Li, the idea that the body's pH level can be altered is a misconception, and that human internal fluids are well-protected from even the slightest shift in pH. In fact, a healthy person's blood pH will always remain close to 7.4, which is slightly alkaline.

She added that there is also no evidence that alkaline water can prevent osteoporosis or maintain calcium balance.

In fact, Li explained that a little acidity may be good for the body, as it acid in the stomach helps break down food completely, digest meat and help the body absorb minerals like iron and calcium. Moreover, a low-pH environment may help kill harmful gut bacteria, she said.

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