Since the mid 1990’s, bottled water sales have steadily increased as people have become more health conscious and look for alternatives to sugary soft drinks. In 2012, bottled water sales in the U.S. totaled a whopping $11.8 billion, a 6.7% increase over the previous year. Even in light of the rumors that many companies use nothing more than common tap water, sales numbers for 2013 are expected to be even higher.
Now there are concerns circulating about the acidity of certain waters and what this means to you, the consumer. To some, the concept that water could be acidic is puzzling. The fact is, there are certain bottled waters on the market that are more acidic than some sodas.
pH and your body
So what does this mean to your body? Before we get into to that, let’s take it back to school for a second and talk about the potential for (or power of) Hydrogen, also known as “pH.”
As you may remember from science class, pH is a numbered measurement of how acidic or basic (also known as “alkaline”) a substance is. Pure water has a pH value of about 7 which is considered neutral. Any number between 0 and 7 is considered acidic, and any number higher than 7 up to 14 is alkaline.
To put these numbers in perspective, vinegar has a pH of about 3, and most sodas are around 2.5 pH. These are considered fairly acidic (battery acid is 1 pH.) On the opposite side, Tums antacid and ammonia have a pH of 10 and 11 respectively. These are clearly alkaline.
Still with me? We also know that homeostasis is a term that describes the balance that our bodies seek to achieve among all systems. In terms of pH, our target body level is about 7.365. If our levels swing too far in either direction, this is considered to be unhealthy and our bodies will take steps to try and return to a normal balance.
What happens when our bodies become acidic?
Studies of the effects of acidity on the body are relatively small and case-by-case. However, research has shown that several things can happen when the body starts to become too acidic. Minerals can be pulled out of the bones and tissues to accommodate for the imbalance which decreases muscle and bone mass. Acidic health conditions like gout, IBS, and GERD can be exacerbated. The lymphatic system can become overworked. Also, the new Theory of Aging suggests that chronic high acidity levels in the body can accelerate aging.
How acidic is bottled water?
Because there are many different types of bottled water on the market, their pH values vary greatly. To make things even more complicated, there are other factors than can affect the acidity of bottle water including the temperature at which it’s stored, how long it’s been sitting, and the composition of the bottle itself.
There is no shortage of pH test results for various brands of bottled water on the internet and results are seldom exactly the same. However, certain brands generally tend to score in the same area. The Aquafina, Dasani, and Propel Zero brands generally score in the acidic range between 4.0 and 6.0, while brands like Fiji and Evamore tend to score slightly higher than neutral between 7 and 8 pH. Other bottled water created specifically to be more alkaline like Essentia (9.5 pH) and water made with an ionizer tend to be even more alkaline.
Why do people drink alkaline water?
As I mentioned earlier, the body is always striving to achieve a pH balance. The problem is that most of the things we eat and drink under normal circumstances tend to be acidic. Even many traditionally acceptable foods such as certain meats, starchy veggies, and even some fruits fall within the acidic range. Add to that all of the obvious acidic things we consume and the result is that the vast majority of us tend to stay on the acidic side.
Logically many figure that drinking alkaline water will counter our acidic bodies. Drinking ionized alkaline water has been shown to create hydroxyl ions which aids in oxygen production, increases energy, hydrates cells, and reduces the symptoms of aging However, due to the natural acids in our body and what we take in from a normal diet, only changing your drinking water would have a minimal effect in the grand scheme of things. In other words, high alkaline water is not a miracle cure.
What can we do to make our bodies less acidic?
If you are daily soda drinker, replacing soda completely with any decent water (7 pH or higher) would be a big step in the right direction. For long term effectiveness, substituting certain salty foods for foods with lots of magnesium, potassium, and calcium will greatly help balance the body because these foods are alkaline forming.
So do your bottled water choices matter to your overall health? Yes and no. If you are a heavy water drinker and your bottled water happens to be one of those with an acidic pH, then switching would most likely have a marked effect on your overall health. However, to truly effect change you are going to have to tweak your entire diet and take steps to reduce your stress levels. There is no one-step method to fix your pH. Instead, the answer is closer to what your mother has been telling you for years:
Everything in moderation.
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