Alkaline Water Machines – Fact or Fiction?

According to Wikipedia, a water ionizer “is a home appliance which claims to raise the pH of drinking water via ionization; in order to achieve a variety of health benefits. Such claims contradict laws of chemistry and physiologyand are unfounded”. Wikipedia makes that claim based on claims made by retired professor Stephen Lower on his chem1 website.

Is Wikipedia Right?

Wikipedia describes the operation of a water ionizer as: “the machines are designed to work as water electrolysers. This is an electrochemical process in which water is split to form hydrogen and oxygen by an electric current

 False Water ionizers DO NOT split water.

How a water ionizer actually works Water ionizers split the mineral carbonates in tap water using a process similar to electrolysis called electrodialysis. Inside a water ionizer, there are charged plates that are separated by an ion-permeable membrane. That membrane allows charged particles to pass through it, but does not allow non-charged particles – such as water molecules – to pass through it.

Your tap water contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. These carbonate minerals form the white, hard water deposits that you see building up in plumbing and appliances. What a water ionizer does is separate the calcium and magnesium in your water from the carbonate. The minerals and the carbonate pass through the ion-permeable membrane, and end up in separate chambers. Both chambers discharge water while the water ionizer is running. The chamber that the minerals end up in discharges alkaline water because the calcium and magnesium are alkaline earth minerals. The chamber that the carbonate ends up in discharges acidic water because carbonate is dissolved CO2, which is acidic.

In the alkaline water, the calcium and magnesium react with water to form mineral hydroxides – calcium hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide. In the acidic water, the carbonate reacts with the water to form a solution of carbonic acid.

Fact: The way Wikipedia describes how water ionizers work is false

Stephen Lower claims that water ionizers can’t work because “pure water can’t be ionized.” But what Lower fails to mention is that there is no such thing as pure water in nature.  The water coming out of your tap has minerals in it. In fact, if your water supply lacked minerals – as it does in some east coast cities – your local water authority would add slaked lime – calcium carbonate – to your water.

Kitchen-table Chemistry Proves Stephen Lower is Wrong

The effect that these machines have on water is easy to prove. You can verify that alkaline water from a water ionizer contains calcium hydroxide with simple, kitchen-table chemistry. Just add a few drops of sulfuric acid to alkaline water from a water ionizer and you will see crystals form on the bottom of the glass.  Those crystals are calcium sulfate, which is hydrophobic – that means that it doesn’t dissolve in water. So when the sulfuric acid reacts with the calcium hydroxide to make calcium sulfate, the calcium sulfate immediately settles out of the water since calcium sulfate doesn’t dissolve in water.

Fact: Stephen Lower is wrong. Water ionizers work because tap water isn’t pure, it contains mineral carbonates which are separated by a water ionizers electrodialysis process.

Alkaline Water Machines – Fiction

alkaline-water-machines science-not-snake-oil

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In all honesty, it’s easy to see why Stephen Lower and Brian Dunning dismiss water ionizers. The way most companies describe water ionizers is completely false. Companies such as Enagic Kangen, Tyent, Chanson, Balwell and others make the following false claims:

  • Microclustering – Water molecules form small clusters.

  • Disease cure – These claims aren’t approved by the FDA

  • Antioxidant – Alkaline water is an  antioxidant

Debunked Alkaline Water Marketing Claims

Microclustering You’ll frequently see Enagic Kangen marketers and others claim that  alkaline water hydrates because it is broken down into small  “clusters” of 6 – 8 molecules . They claim that regular water is harder to absorb because it contain larger “clusters” of water molecules.

The Facts: In liquid form, water molecules may cluster together – but only for trillionths of a second – but then they immediately break apart. No scientist has ever observed this process however, so it’s a theory. All of the microclustering claims you see made for alkaline water are loosely based on that theory, but none of them tell you that those clusters form and break up so fast that nobody can actually be sure they even exist! Bottom line, water clusters don’t have any effect on your health.

Disease cure? Time for a reality check.  There are over 40 studies that document health benefits from drinking alkaline water, but nearly all of those studies are preliminary: This means that the study findings – while they are very promising – need to be confirmed by additional research before you can legally claim that alkaline water cures any disease.

Fact: Studies showing health benefits for alkaline water are promising, but preliminary. They need to be confirmed by additional research.

Alkaline water as an antioxidant: Is alkaline water is an antioxidant? It has antioxidant potential, but in reality it works differently than the antioxidant enzymes in your body. Alkaline water breaks down Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) but has no effect on free radicals. ROS’ like hydrogen peroxide can have a very harmful effect on your health if they reach excessive levels in your body, and drinking alkaline water is an effective way to break them down. That fact has been confirmed in animal testing, but awaits human trials for confirmation.

Fact: Alkaline water does break down harmful ROS, but by itself alkaline water isn’t an antioxidant.


Confused about what a water ionizer really does? Call us at 877-959-7977 with your questions. It’s your health, get the facts.

 

References

Wynn, E, MA Krieg, JM Aeschlimann, and P Burckhardt. “Alkaline mineral water lowers bone resorption even in calcium sufficiency: alkaline mineral water and bone metabolism.” Bone. Elsevier, 27 Oct 2008. Web. 1 Jul 2013. <http://www.thebonejournal.com/article/S8756-3282(08)00781-3/abstract>.

Rylander, Ragnar, and Maurice Arnaud. “Mineral water intake reduces blood pressure among subjects with low urinary magnesium and calcium levels.” BMC Public Health. BMC Public Health, 30 Nov 2004. Web. 1 Jul 2013. <http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/4/56>.

Abraham, Guy, and Jorge Flebas. “The effect of daily consumption of 2 liters of electrolyzed water for 2 months on body composition and several physiological parameters in four obese subjects: a preliminary report.” Highbeam Research. Original Internist, 01 Sep 2011. Web. 2 Jul 2013. <http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-269433201.html>.

 

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