Do Enhanced Waters Actually Have Health Benefits?

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You know it’s important to drink plenty of water. Not only does this naturally zero-calorie beverage help hydrate the 60 percent of you that is water, but it’s vital for keeping your energy levels up and your organs in working order. But are there any added benefits to the enhanced waters on the market? Let’s take a look.

Alkaline Water/Ionized Water

Alkaline water refers to water that has a higher pH than regular or filtered tap water. It can be naturally alkaline (such as most mineral waters) or created by using an ionizer. Advocates of alkaline water say the typical Western diet makes our bodies acidic and that drinking alkaline water is one way to get your body to an optimum pH. Some studies have supported a benefit to alkaline water. A 2009 study out of Switzerland suggested drinking alkaline mineral water could help preserve bone density. These ideas are intriguing, but the body of research is pretty small at this point, so take it with a grain of salt.

Mineral Water

Mineral water contains trace elements and minerals from its source. An Italian paper from 2006 catalogued the variety of mineral waters along with their specific use. For instance, it’s suggested that “sulfurous water” can help treat diabetes (helping to lower blood sugar and other symptoms of the disease), and “bicarbonate water” can neutralize the stomach acid involved in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Water with Electrolytes

Electrolytes are a set of minerals — sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphate — that help regulate the fluid balance in your body. Tap water contains electrolytes, but the amounts probably vary depending on the source.

You lose electrolytes (especially sodium) through sweating, and while it’s important to replace them, you don’t necessarily need to do so in an all-in-one beverage, such as electrolyte-enhanced water. You get plenty of electrolytes through the food you eat, so as long as you’re eating, drinking tap water is just fine. Two exceptions are if you’re doing endurance training or you have diarrhea. Those two conditions make replenishing electrolytes particularly important — and make eating meals particularly hard.

Flavor- and Vitamin-Enhanced Water

As long as we’re talking about flavored water with no sugar or sugar substitutes, this can be a great choice. People often find it easier to drink more flavored water than plain water. As for vitamins, again: Your best bet is to get vitamins and minerals through food (they’re often better absorbed that way).

Kerri-Ann Jenning is a registered dietitian who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.