In the wake of the alkaline water trend, Kangen water has risen in popularity as the latest (and most expensive) way to enjoy safe drinking water. Kangen water comes from a specific line of water-ionizing machines, which filter your tap to one of five different pH ranges (from very acidic to very alkaline) and it's marketed as more beneficial for drinking, cleaning, food preparation, or beauty care, among others.
Enagic, the distributor of these water-filtration machines, claims drinking ionized water at its specified pH levels should be a priority, saying that tap water, bottled water, and even reverse osmosis water, are highly contaminated and a hazard to health.
The retailer claims that their Kangen water will not only be healthier for our bodies but will also improve the flavor of home-cooked meals, provide better hydration, give consumers glowing skin and hair, and more.
But does Kangen water actually do any of these things? Are tap water and bottled water terribly unsafe? There is some research out there that shows Kangen water could be useful for cleaning, but that there isn't much else out there to prove its other supposed benefits. We asked two experts to investigate and address the health claims made by Enagic to see if they had any scientific research to back them up.
“With regard to health, alkaline water won't have any physiologic effect on your body,” said Rachele Pojednic PhD, RD, an assistant nutrition professor at Simmons College in Boston. “Your internal pH is highly regulated, and is also varied in different organs.”
Pojednic explained that our stomach pH for example, is highly acidic in order to break down proteins, while our intestinal pH is more neutral to help absorb nutrients. Our blood is even more highly regulated and maintain a pretty even 7.4 pH in healthy people—but our bodies regulate these organs and systems naturally, thanks to chemical buffers and our respiratory and renal (urinary) systems.
Kristi Crowe-White PhD, RD, a nutritional researcher at The University of Alabama, explained modifying water’s alkalinity is just one of the many ways to kill off any microorganisms that might be living in the water—but it's not a cure-all for health issues. Crowe-White believes drinking alkaline water isn’t, as the company claims, the only safe way to hydrate.
“Whether we consume really alkaline or really acidic foods, each requires the body to buffer either metabolically or via respiratory response,” Crowe-White said.
This same concept also works with acidic and alkaline beverages. Crowe-White advises those who are concerned with their body’s pH levels should focus on consuming more whole foods with proven anti-inflammatory properties rather than ingesting foods or drinks that lack a history or longitudinal evidence of safe use for optimal health.
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But what about the claim that our favorite brands of bottled water and taps are unsafe? Recent water contamination scares in cities like Flint, Michigan have made Americans around the country more worried about drinking unfiltered tap water.
“The only reason you would want to be concerned about the acidity or alkalinity of water is at the municipal level to make sure that metals are not leaching into the pipes,” Pojednic said Although mistakes clearly do occur, they're rare. This is a very highly regulated system and, in general, should not be cause for alarm.”
Pojednic said most municipalities actually treat their water to be slightly alkaline to prevent the corrosion of pipe metals. Her home state of Massachusetts reports they treat their water to be 9.0-9.5 on the pH scale, and your local tap water should be just fine as well.
“The only water I would be careful with is water occurring in nature,” Pojednic said. “And not because of the pH, but because microorganisms and bacteria can be in water from ponds, streams, and lakes. There are mini-treatment systems you can use if you are camping and can't carry enough with you, but other than that, just fill a reusable bottle with tap water and you'll be fine!”
Crowe-White and Pojednic both agree drinking from these Kangen water machines, which range between $1980 and $5980, are not the key to health, tastier food, and glowing skin as Enjaic advertises. Pojednic said there has been limited research on the health benefits of alkaline water, and she is wary of anything that sounds just rooted enough in science to scare consumers into buying their product.