Should we be opting for "alkaline water" or "ionised water" in our drinking choices today? What about "hydrogen water" or "Kangen water"? The water market has seen a surge in terms, labels, brands, and claims in recent years. In the health world, a buzz has grown around alkaline water, with bold claims suggesting it can enhance overall well-being and boost athletic performance. While some have embraced this trend, others dismiss it as a mere gimmick. So, what do these terms signify, and is there any substance to these claims? To understand where all these trends come from, we need to go back to basics and to do so, it is important to get to know two key scientific processes: oxidation and reduction.
Oxidation occurs when a substance acquires electrons, which possess a negative electromagnetic charge, from another substance. Conversely, reduction transpires when electrons are donated to a substance by another substance. Oxidation is responsible for phenomena such as metal rusting or fruits browning when cut open, and it generally has adverse effects on the body as well. Hence, in terms of health, healthcare professionals recommend the consumption of antioxidant-rich ingredients that stimulate the reduction process as part of a balanced diet. This includes incorporating items like green tea, walnuts, and blackberries into one's diet. Within the body, when reduction occurs, antioxidant compounds provide electrons to entities known as "free radicals" (often referred to as "toxins"), diminishing their capacity to steal electrons and oxidise bodily tissues.
While pure water boasts a pH level of 7, the typical glass of tap water contains an amalgamation of various ions that influence its overall pH level. Some ions carry fewer electrons and possess a positive electromagnetic charge, resulting in a low pH, while others carry more electrons and bear a negative electromagnetic charge, leading to a high pH. The functioning principle of home water ionisation devices involves the separation of positively charged ions from negatively charged ions, achieved through electromagnets in a process known as "ionisation" or "electrolysis." This process yields two distinct types of water: one with a positive charge, fewer electrons, and a low pH, known as acidic ionised water; and the other with a negative charge, more electrons, and a high pH, referred to as alkaline ionised water. According to scientific understanding, alkaline ionised water should have the capacity to reduce the effects of oxidation because, like other antioxidant-rich foods and beverages, it can donate electrons to free radicals. The extent to which alkaline ionised water can diminish the oxidation process is quantified by its "Oxidation Reduction Potential" (ORP).
Certain scientific research lends support to the consumption of alkaline water, endorsing the claims that incorporating alkaline-rich foods and beverages can have a positive impact on the body. For instance, one study illustrated that increasing the body's alkalinity can lead to more effective excretion of toxins. Nevertheless, as is often the case in scientific debates, some experts maintain a sceptical stance regarding such claims. One primary concern is that fixating solely on pH levels, the contrast between alkaline and acidic, overlooks the potential effects that the mineral ions themselves (which influence water's pH) might exert on the body. This influence can be either beneficial or detrimental, depending on an individual's specific requirements and health conditions. Essentially, in addressing bodily issues, it remains crucial to delve into the root causes rather than merely attempting to modify symptomatic factors like pH levels. However, before entirely dismissing the merits of alkaline water, it is sensible to consider some of its potential advantages. As previously mentioned, alkaline water, with its surplus of electrons and higher electromagnetic charge, can counteract the process of oxidation. This attribute could be valuable in reducing tissue damage and inflammation stemming from factors such as elevated blood sugar levels. Additionally, a 2013 study conducted in South Korea discovered that alkaline ionised water led to reduced glycation levels and decreased liver damage in rats experiencing impaired blood sugar control. While further human trials and research are requisite, combating the rogue molecules generated by glycation, referred to as "advanced glycation end products" (AGEs), could prove to be an effective tool in the prevention of conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.
While the global debate has centred on the pros and cons of alkaline water, in Japan, another contender has been steadily advancing since the 1960s: hydrogen water (known as Shin’nooru in Japanese). To put it simply, hydrogen water is ordinary pure water infused with hydrogen gas. This process loads the water with additional hydrogen ions, which, in a similar way to alkaline ionised water, produce antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Of all the elements found on the periodic table, hydrogen (H) is the lightest and smallest. While regular H2O does indeed already encompass hydrogen, in its molecular form, the two hydrogen atoms are chemically bonded to oxygen. Conversely, the hydrogen gas molecules introduced into hydrogen water are solely bound to each other (H2), affording them the freedom to be used in various processes. According to a 2013 review published in the journal Medical Gas Research, when consumed, this "free hydrogen" travels through the bloodstream into cells, where it can neutralise and aid in eliminating free radicals from the body. It reduces the adverse effects of both oxidation and inflammation, processes linked to premature ageing, cardiovascular issues, arthritis, type two diabetes, cognitive disorders, and other diseases, including cancer. While the effects of hydrogen water are similar to those of alkaline ionised water, researchers note that hydrogen is particularly effective because, unlike other antioxidants, it can target specific free radicals. A key impact is its ability to neutralise hydroxyl, or OH, which ranks among the most reactive free radicals in the body, emitted frequently but in particularly high quantities during trauma or oxidative stress. As mentioned earlier, hydrogen water has enjoyed immense popularity in Japan for more than half a century, where it has been used for not only drinking but bathing too. A few years back, the Japanese health ministry sanctioned hydrogen-infused saline intravenous solutions for medical use, aimed at treating various conditions, ranging from severe dehydration to infections. In recent times, some individuals in the Western world have become aware of the benefits of hydrogen water. In addition to long-term advantages, proponents assert that the immediate effects are palpable, claiming that hydrogen water provides a noticeable energy boost immediately after consumption and speeds up muscle recovery after exercise.
While alkaline ionised water boasts a higher pH level, hydrogen water contains the added presence of free hydrogen (H2). Research suggests that both of these options can have a positive impact on health. Although more trials are necessary to determine which is more effective, one indisputable fact is that the presence of free hydrogen appears to offer notable benefits to the body. When incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet, the additional H2 in hydrogen water can contribute to numerous aspects of our overall well-being, the full extent of which we are only beginning to understand. Keeping an eye on the development of research regarding hydrogen water is certainly advisable. In the meantime, you can acquire your own supply by either purchasing ready-made hydrogen water or investing in a hydrogen water generator—a device that allows you to create hydrogen water on demand from the comfort of your home.