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At a friend's house the other day, some sort of contraption had appeared near the sink since the last time I had been there. It was a filtration-looking device with one input hose connected to the tap and two output hoses/spouts. She explained that our bodies are born more alkaline and that this device produces alkaline water to drink because it's more healthy. It also produces acidic water for cleaning.

I tracked down the producer of the device: Enagic. One of their distributors claims:

Benefits of drinking Ionized Alkaline Water:

  • Antioxidant, which helps to slow down aging.
  • Reduce acidity in the body, which aids in weight loss.
  • Works to detoxify your colon by eliminating free radicals, which boosts your immunity to disease.
  • Creates a healthy alkaline body which offsets changes in the acid alkaline balance in your body and makes you feel and look better.
  • Super-hydrates (microcluster), which leaves you feeling energized while simultaneously increasing your body's ability to absorb important vitamins and minerals. From the very first time you try Ionized Alkaline Water, you'll immediately experience the difference it makes. Please explore this website to learn more about how this miracle water generator machine can dramatically transform your life!

Enagic's main claim about Kangen water is:

With a pH of 8.5-9.5, this type of water is perfect for drinking and healthy cooking. It works to restore your body to a more alkaline state, which optimizes health.

The same link discusses claims regarding better tasting coffee, the water's enhanced ability to draw out flavors in soups/stews which reduces the need for condiments and salt, and "giving freshness" to plants.

There's a bunch more discussion about Kangen water at kangen.net. Just to add some meat to the discussion, here was an interesting, specific claim mentioned there (emphasis mine):

Micro-clusters: Ionization changes conventional water from an irregular, bulky shape to a hexagonal shape that saturates the body tissue much more efficiently. It is sometimes referred to as micro-clustered water because of its small molecular grouping. These smaller six-sided clusters are much more hydrating and penetrating. They are, therefore, more capable of pushing out the toxins from the body.

Another claim about the specific method of changing the pH, from the same site:

The Process: When water passes through electrical energy, it causes the hydrogen within it (H2O) to assume one of two forms. One is hydrogen (H+) that has a positive electrical charge. This water is ‘acidic’. The other form is hydrogen that bonds with an oxygen atom and becomes negatively charged (OH-) and is sometimes referred to as active hydrogen. And this alkaline water is the building block of life itself.


Questions: there could be quite a lot of things asked about this arena. I'm open to answers to any/all of these questions:

  • First off, can it be confirmed/denied that these devices are actually outputting acidic/alkaline water at their specified pH levels? The machines claim to have a range from 2.7 - 11 for the output.
  • How are they accomplishing this pH change? The claim is that it just uses electricity, but I was under the understanding that this wouldn't affect pH. Water naturally dissociates, but I didn't think you could separate high H+ containing water from high OH- containing water just like that.
  • Is there any evidence that drinking water of a given pH affects anything at all about your overall pH? My gut reaction was that we eat and drink all kinds of different substances at different pH's, and they're broken down into smaller building blocks anyway. Does alkalinity increase in any notable amount overall? (As an aside, is there a method of measuring the pH of "the body" -- would it just be the pH of the blood or some extracted fluid?)
  • Forgoing the technical details (how this makes alkaline water or whether it does), is there any confirmation of any claimed benefits from the first portion above (antioxidant, aiding in weight loss, eliminating free radicals, improved immunity, and/or the ability to absorb vitamins/minerals)?
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8  
Oh my. +1, one of my favourite bogus claims. –  Konrad Rudolph Sep 13 '11 at 14:55
    
Human digestion depends on many enzymes which have different environmental requirements to work properly. In particular most proteins are broken to smaller peptides by pepsine in stomach. While this enzyme requires strongly acidic environment, the stomach cells actively produce hydrochloric acid to provide it. On the other hand, stomach content is (again actively) neutralized after leaving it by bases produced by the pancreas, to make it safe to the rest of digestive system. Those both processes will effectively level out the pH of incoming food before it gets absorbed. –  mbq Sep 13 '11 at 19:51
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AGH! Again! However, I must agree with @Konrad, this one is a true classic. –  Monkey Tuesday Sep 14 '11 at 5:11
    
always wonder why people who claim this aren't all sipping their concentrated nitrous peroxide... –  jwenting Sep 9 '13 at 11:13
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1 Answer 1

This is a response to your third question. Gee, I was only allowed to post 2 hyperlinks, so sorry about the lack of references.

Let's first start with body pH. Body pH can be measured by measuring blood pH or other body fluid pH.

Some proponents of acid-alkaline theory propose measuring urine pH. This is however misleading, because urine is just a collection of wastes that the body is trying to get rid of. If it fluctuates it does not mean the body pH fluctuates.

https://sciencebasedpharmacy.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/your-urine-is-not-a-window-to-your-body-ph-balancing-a-failed-hypothesis/#more-1424

Small fluctuations of body pH is generally not caused by pH of ingested fluids, but by several other metabolic processes, in particular body temperature and oxygen metabolism:

http://www.chemistry.wustl.edu/~edudev/LabTutorials/Buffer/Buffer.html

Serious deviations of blood pH (acidosis or alkalosis) are also generally not caused by diet, but typically by failure of one of the body's systems:

(links removed, just check alkalosis / acidosis)

There are, however, documented cases of alkaline diet causing alkalosis, in combination with impaired renal function. This particularly happens when a lot of alkaline (for example, sodium bicarbonate) is ingested over a period of time, in an attempt to treat peptic ulcers:

(links removed, check google scholar "alkaline treatment peptic ulcer")

Concluding, I certainly hope that Kangen water is not actually alkaline, because drinking liters of pH 9 water a day may cause alkalosis in people with a kidney insufficiency.

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4  
Hi Boris, Great answer - if you include your links as plain text (add as many as you want), people will be able to edit your answer and turn them back into links for you. Many of us think this rule should be removed for the Skeptics site, myself included. In the meantime, I've upvoted you, and hopefully the restriction will be lifted soon. –  jozzas May 10 '12 at 23:54
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