September 5, 2018

Water: Facts, Fiction, and Fraud

Water is the “elixir of life.”

Peter N. Landless & Zeno L. Charles-Marcel

Q:Years ago drinking water was simple: tap, cooler, or fountain. Today I counted 32 kinds of water in the supermarket, and friends say that “[de]ionized alkaline water” is best! Really?

A:Great question! Water is the “elixir of life.” We need five to 13 gallons of clean water daily for drinking, cooking, and hygiene, based on our size, body composition, diet, climate, activity, medications, and medical condition. Any guidelines must therefore be general.

Water is now big business. Some scientists claim that commercial interests drive the dehydration dogma and “sell sickness” for corporate profit. Supermarket aisles bear witness to the effect of marketing: “simple water alone is not good enough.” Variety is based on origin, composition, and treatment. Commercial names are often misleading: e.g., “alpine springs” water may come from the lowlands.

Hygenic-water processing is prudent for safety; yet chlorination and fluoridation of drinking water still stir controversy despite proven benefits. Magnetic water treatment has no health benefit. Natural fresh water from rain-snow, wells, and springs may contain minerals, dissolved gases, or elements such as sulfur. But adding these chemicals, vitamins, or fruit flavors provides dubious health benefits. Filtered, purified, distilled, ionized, tap, desalinated, and sparkling water are all “treated” waters. Alkaline water is specifically processed to remove acidic compounds or to add alkaline compounds (e.g., bicarbonate). Pure water is neutral—neither acidic nor alkaline—while raw rainwater is slightly acidic. It’s important to know that human blood is slightly alkaline, tightly controlled, and unaffected by diet in normal people.

Alkaline (ionized) water became popular because of health claims (see table). Research sponsored by water-treatment companies has caused added confusion. There is no conclusive evidence that significant health benefits accompany the drinking of alkaline water in otherwise healthy individuals. Actually, eating fruits and vegetables provides physiological dietary alkalization without extra cost while avoiding environmental pollution with plastic bottles.

Drink the most hygenic, environmentally friendly water you can. Avoid fads. Despite living in a sin-scarred world, we may drink freely of the Water of Life as we walk daily with Jesus.

Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.

Claims Regarding Alkaline WaterEvidence From Scientific Studies
Increases longevityHigh-alkaline water is associated with longer lifespan in rats (not humans) and also retarded growth.
Prevents/treats cancerNo significant research exists. No proof for or against; one small study showed association between dietary acidity and bladder cancer. Alkaline diet may increase the potency of some chemotherapy.
Prevents osteoporosis caused by dietary acidityNo association of dietary acidity and osteoporosis. Dietary alkalinity showed no protection against osteoporosis.
Improves bone health; prevents osteoporosisSmall beneficial effect on bone “dissolving” (comparing alkaline with acid-rich water-drinking); osteoporosis not prevented.
Prevents/treats acid reflux diseaseHighly alkaline water (pH 8.8) deactivates a stomach protein (Pepsin); may reduce stomach acidity (not necessarily a good thing).
Cures psoriasisTopical Rusanda water spa helpful in plaque-like psoriasis.
Heals type 2 diabetes, hyper­tension, abnormal blood lipidsThirty-six months of alkaline water-drinking accompanied improvement in these conditions in one small study.