Ionized alkaline water and skeptics

There are those who are skeptical about water ionization. They claim that alkaline water is of no benefit because - although the theory may make sense - there is no proof.

On the other hand, there are those making extravagant claims for the benefits of alkaline ionized water. These are easy targets for the skeptics.

And then there are the millions of consumers, hospitals, doctors and other health practitioners in Japan, Korea, North America and Australia who take the health benefits of water ionization for granted.

So, what do we actually know? (New: See what Dr.Kurzweil, distinguished scientist, has to say about alkaline water here)

First of all, there are 3 objective tests which distinguish alkaline ionized water:

As Alkaline: this is established by simple pH test - see Lab Analysis in our Research section. Typically our water ionizers will raise the pH of acid or neutral tap water to between ph8 and ph10.5, considerably more alkaline than any conventional drinking water.

As Antioxidant: This is measured by O.R.P. meter (a measure in millivolts of the oxidation reduction potential of a liquid). Values for ionized water are in the 250mV to 400mV range (i.e. antioxidant), compared to positive (oxidizing) values for all other conventional waters. Click here for an explanation of O.R.P. and for tested results.

As to size of molecular cluster: Through electrolysis (ionization), original tap water clusters made up of 11-13 water molecules are restructured into smaller clusters made up of 5-6 water molecules. This has been verified with the use of both NMR (Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging) devices and Raman Spectroscopic Meters. The width of the oxygen-17 peak in a NMR test is interpreted to be related to the size of molecular clusters in water. The width of the NMR O-17 peak for electrolyzed water is half of that for tap water (65Hz vs. 130 Hz).

With this in mind, let's take a look at the chief criticisms of the skeptics:

The body is a self-regulating system and it does not matter whether one takes in alkaline food or water. To understand how this faulty understanding arises, here is Sang Whang, researcher, with the chemistry:

What happens to the alkaline water once it reaches the stomach, which is highly acidic?

In order to digest food and kill bacteria found in our foods, our stomach produces acid (pH of 4). When we intake alkaline water, the pH level of the stomach rises. The stomach detects the alkaline water and commands itself to produce more acid, bringing the pH level back to 4. At first thought this seems counter productive. But once you understand how the stomach wall makes hydrochloric acid, the process becomes clear. The cells in the stomach must produce hydrochloric acid on an as needed basis. The ingredients to make the acid are carbon dioxide, water, sodium chloride or potassium chloride. The by-product of this acid is sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate that is delivered to the blood stream (e.g. NaCl + H2O + CO2 = HCl + NaHCO3). These bicarbonates are the alkaline buffers that neutralize excess acids in the blood, as well as dissolving acid wastes. As our bodies age, and accumulate more acid waste, the natural alkaline buffers that are made cannot handle such a big job. Thats where alkaline water comes into play. We need these alkaline buffers in our blood to help our cells from becoming too acidic and producing disease.

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. You can watch this short video. (For a more complete explanation, read the Article by Sang Whang)

This is a partial explanation why an alkaline diet is, internationally, one of the most well-established recommendations of Naturopathic and Complementary medicine. Health practitioners prescribe alkaline ionized water to avoid stressing the body's self-regulating system.

Alkaline water is common throughout the Western United States, but to my knowledge it has not protected anyone from the diseases and disorders that occur elsewhere in the U.S.

The alkaline hard water found in the western United States differs from alkaline water from water ionization in three respects:

Ionizer water has had a substantial percentage of the acid minerals removed to the acid stream. Not so with hard water. Alkaline ionized water is more alkaline than hard water.

The O.R.P. of alkaline ionized water has a negative (i.e. antioxidant) value; hard water tests with a plus value, i.e. it has no antioxidant properties.

Although both waters have dissolved calcium, the calcium in alkaline ionized water is predominantly in hydroxide form. The calcium in hard water is not electrically charged and does not test as high in pH.

Furthermore, there is significant evidence that the calcium and magnesium in typically "hard" water do, in fact protect against disease. See selected research here.

The benefits are unproven.

--A substantial body of clinical proof does exist. For a sampling see our Research section.

--For articles by doctors and other health care practitioners, see our Articles section.

--Lastly, there are the benefits claimed in numerous Testimonials. Scientifically, testimonials are considered as hearsay and are sometimes rejected as inadmissible evidence of benefits of an agent for health. Are these improvements due to the placebo effect (in other words because people believe in the treatment), or not? With some of the health claims made, we don't know the answer for sure. However, when the number of testimonials of an effect becomes significant, it is unlikely that the events have occurred by chance alone. Water ionisers have a track record of over 30 years and millions of units sold.

For example, the link between smaller molecular cluster size and the claim that ionized water has superior hydrating properties is unproven. On the other hand, there is an almost universal experience of the hydrating properties of ionized water, and of increased intake of water.

To read about the original, underlying electrochemistry which has made ionized water possible, click here.

A word regarding proof and clinical trials:

As we all know, many medical procedures and drugs that have passed clinical trials have later proven harmful or to have serious side-effects. In addition, a 1990 report from the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress concluded that upwards of 80 percent of conventional medicine lacked an adequate basis in research.

And as we all know there have been many alternative treatments that have disappeared from view because they either were of no benefit or did harm.

Keeping that in mind, we should not forget that many alternative treatments have been greeted with skepticism or ridicule by the conventional medical view, only to have proven their value and to have been accepted much later on. In Asia, water ionization is not alternative, it is mainstream. Pun intended.

And here's what Clifton Jolley, Ph.D. recently had to say about the alkaline water skeptics:

Up until recently, the scientific opinion of hydration was that all you need to worry about is whether the water you ingest is verifiably clean. However, a substantial bodyof NEW scientific research into the benefits of “electrolyzed-reduced” or “alkaline water” has yielded an range of potential benefits. PubMed (published by the National Institutes of Health) lists nearly 100 double-blinded, peer-reviewed articles describing demonstrated benefits of alkaline water tested in both human and animal studies.

While it’s true the resting pH of the body is relatively stable at 7.35-7.45, the benefits of alkaline water have more to do with the performance of the water in the body than with the pH of the body. For instance, in studies conducted in Switzerland at the Lausanne University Hospital, calcium resorption was evidenced to be dramatically reduced in osteoporosis patients fed naturally-occurring alkaline water. (The scientists anticipate similar results for alkaline water produced by electrolyzed-reduced ionization.)

Other studies evidence increased absorption of nutritional supplements when ingested with alkaline water; and absorption is decreased as the acidity of the water is increased. So, while it’s true that unscrupulous manufacturers of some ionizing devices may make exaggerated claims for their products, there are reliable manufacturers making claims well within the range supported by recent science. For instance, a major manufacturer of ionizing appliances—recently published a list of claims for alkaline water based on the science reported by the NIH and other reliable scientific sources.

The greatest risk to the advancement of water science is presented by the uninformed and the under-informed whose opinions are based upon old science or no science. For instance, to suggest “the machines don’t make water alkaline” is to fly in the face of dozens of scientific studies that rely on electrolyzed-reduction to produce alkaline water. Such opinion usually is advanced without scientific verification by persons who have neither credentials nor education in the emerging science of alkaline water benefits.