Unproven claims of alkaline or oxygenated water
We’ve said time and again that water is one of the best natural medicines and we should drink enough of it daily to remain healthy. Up to now, patients have been asking me about the purported health benefits of alkaline, ionized or oxygenated water. A few years ago, we wrote in this column that plain water is still the best and that the claimed advantages of all these types of “other waters” are not based on scientific evidence. It’s more of a marketing hype rather than science-based.
Alkaline water is supposed to have a higher pH level than plain water and, according to those marketing it, its alkalinity can neutralize the acidity in the body and have favorable effects on the absorption of essential nutrients into the bloodstream, enhance the body’s metabolism, prevent diseases and even slow down the aging process.
I remember a patient showing me a copy of a clinical trial suggesting that alkaline water may help retard bone loss in people with a predisposition for the blood to become acidic due to some medical conditions like chronic kidney disease, but it is better to give the patient a few sodium bicarbonate tablets, which cost a lot cheaper than alkaline water.
If one does not have these medical conditions, the body by itself should be able to take care of maintaining the right pH level in the blood and various tissues, provided one is adequately hydrated and properly nourished. This process, which God has perfectly designed in most living organisms, is called homeostasis. It refers to the capability of the body to maintain internal stability, characterized by a coordinated response of the various organ-systems in the body to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb their normal state or function.
Under normal conditions this compensatory mechanism operates nonstop 24/7, but diseases can disrupt this process. Alkaline, ionized or hydrogenated water would not be necessary to restore the normal pH level of the blood and tissues; and it should be no better than plain water in hydrating the body.
I’m glad that the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently came out with an advisory on the “false, deceptive and misleading claims and strategies to promote alkaline water and oxygenated water.”
Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, FDA director, reproached establishments operating vendo-type outlets or filling stations and those engaged in the manufacture, importation and distribution of water purification devices for their “unsubstantiated therapeutic claims in the promotion and marketing of their products and/or purification device allegedly producing water known as ‘alkaline water’ or ‘oxygenated water.’”
Lack of clinical studies
Dr. Go stated that the therapeutic or clinical benefits being claimed by those promoting alkaline or oxygenated water lack scientific or clinical studies and are not approved by the FDA.
“One need not buy an expensive water machine or expensive water to achieve health benefits. Drinking ionized water doesn’t change your blood pH level. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will help your body (to become) alkaline and provide for more health benefits unless one has serious respiratory or kidney problems,” explained Dr. Go in the FDA advisory.
All devices used in the manufacture of foods and drinks should be evaluated and approved by the Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health, and Research of the FDA, which issues a Certificate of Health Related Device Registration. This certificate assures the public that the device has passed the FDA standards for quality and safety. No certificate has been issued for devices producing alkaline or oxygenated water up to the time the advisory was issued.
So the next time someone sells you a bottle of alkaline or oxygenated water, or any health supplement for that matter, ask for scientific data published in a reputable journal and the FDA approval. If none of these could be presented, then politely tell the seller you’re not interested even if he/she happens to be a relative, good friend or your boss’ wife.
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