Alkaline water making a splash, but experts dismiss health claims

NEW YORK • Beyonce is reportedly hooked. Cycling studios cannot keep enough of it on the shelves.

In a never-ending quest for the ultimate form of hydration, alkaline water has emerged as the eau du jour, touted as energising, detoxifying and a cure-all for ailments that seem to afflict people who hang out at yoga studios and juice bars.

People ingest lots of high-acid foods, including processed grains, corn, meat, fish, sodas, coffee and alcohol. Water that has been "alkalised" (naturally or with an ioniser) with a pH of 8 to 10 can neutralise them.

Purported benefits include superior hydration, detoxification, reduced inflammation and increased energy. It is an attractive idea, especially in an era when everything - from politics to gender relations - feels corrosive. Wash away your troubles with something as simple as water.

It also helps to be rich enough to afford a US$4,000 (S$5,500) home ioniser or a 12-pack of Flow Alkaline Spring Water for US$17.99.

That is no issue for basketball stars such as Kawhi Leonard, who told GQ last year: "Stick to alkaline waters with a higher pH. Trust me."

What better place to hawk a pricey water enhancement than that desert oasis Los Angeles?


No wonder every pressed-juice bar and yoga studio seems to be jumping on board.

Alkalised water is not new (ionisers were sold in Japan in the 1960s).

But it made a pop cultural splash in 2013 when it was reported that Beyonce's concert rider specified titanium straws so she could sip alkaline water.

In a sign of its growing popularity, Smartwater, a division of Coca-Cola, released an alkaline version last year.

Do the health claims hold any water? "It's all about marketing," Ms Tanis Fenton, a dietitian and epidemiologist at Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, told The New York Times in April.

"There is no science to back it up."

Some studies suggest that alkaline water may be helpful in treating acid reflux or high blood pressure, but a number of scientists remain sceptical.

Mr Joe Schwarcz, director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Montreal, called the craze "mind-numbing nonsense" in a newsletter last year.

"Our body maintains the pH of the blood between 7 and 7.4, which is already alkaline," he noted. "If you were to alkalise it further, you would not have to worry about illness because you would be dead."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2018, with the headline 'Alkaline water making a splash, but experts dismiss health claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe