120 Besides drinking water, Enagic's machines produce four other types of water. Enagic recommends using very acidic "sanitary water" for household disinfecting, such as sanitizing cutting boards and knives. "Beauty water" helps close facial pores after washing with it, the company says. Neutral water is intended for taking medications and making baby formula; and "strong" Kangen water, a very alkaline water, is intended for "cleansing power" in such tasks as removing toilet stains or floor stains.
, Some doctors and scientists say the companies' claims aren't backed by good high-quality studies. "Human evidence is lacking, safety profile is lacking and it's very expensive," says Catherine Ulbricht, co-founder of National Standard Research Collaboration, a Cambridge, Mass. scientist-owned group that evaluates natural therapies. "There is no basis for any health claims at all" for alkaline drinking water, adds Santa Barbara, Calif., gastroenterologist John Petrini, past president of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. After it is digested, food and water goes into the stomach and—no matter what pH it was when it entered—ends up leaving the stomach at a pH of about 6.8, Dr. Petrini says. And no matter what you eat, your body has effective mechanisms to keep your blood in a narrow range between 7.35 and 7.45, he adds. Chemists say it's logical that acidic or very alkaline water could be useful for cleaning, but there's no evidence that the pH of water has any specific effect on skin or pores, says Washington, D.C., dermatologist Tina Alster.
121 Americans spent $21 billion on bottled waters in 2012, and more and more consumers are investing in a home water filter. A filter can range from an inexpensive carafe or pitcher to a system designed for the whole house, but the latest machine to make waves is the water ionizer, which passes an electrical current through tap water in order to turn it alkaline (i.e., base) through the chemical reaction called electrolysis. Proponents claim alkaline water helps the body neutralize acid in the blood, provides more energy, slows the aging process, and is, according to the online purveyor Alkaline Water Plus, "packed with natural antioxidants [negatively-charged electrons], which are free to naturally fight free radicals .... Drinking
antioxidant water all day long will help you prevent and even reverse free radical damage." "Change your water, change your life," is the trademarked slogan of Kangen Water, marketed by the U.S. branch of the Japanese company Enagic. "Keeping ourselves Alkaline is the first line of defense in fighting any disease," Cal Water Systems states on another website. "Ionized Water essentially renews us at a cellular level. This is as close as we can ever hope to get to a Fountain of Youth, as incredible as that may sound." That does sound incredible. And expensive! Don't know about you, but it made me really curious about how water ionizers work. But first, a little background on the pH scale, which is used to define degrees of alkalinity and acidity. In 1909, S.P.L. Sørensen, director of chemistry at Carlsberg Laboratory, in Copenhagen (founded in 1875 by beer magnate J.C. Jacobsen), invented the pH scale while researching proteins, amino acids, and enzymes—the basis of protein chemistry today.