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Will alkaline water kill you?
You're probably surprised at the headline above if you saw my Sunday email of January 30. That issue featured a letter from one of our readers, Jerry L., who praised alkaline water to the skies and described the health benefits his family had experienced. It was so interesting I wanted to pass it along to everybody, even though I have no personal experience of these alkaline water machines.
First off: don't worry, alkaline water isn't going to kill you or probably hurt you at all. But the article prompted a couple of letters from other readers who raised safety issues, so I decided to do some follow-up research of my own.
The quick background to this whole subject is that many authorities on alternative cancer treatments say cancer thrives in a highly acidic environment. They say you can get rid of cancer by changing the body's pH (a measurement of acidity/alkalinity) from acid to alkaline. There's a variety of ways to do this including diet and supplements. Barley supplements, for example, are probably a better way than an expensive water machine.
The problem with the acid-alkaline approach is that it's a theory in search of evidence. I wrote about this long ago in Issue #18, which you can see in our issue archive at www.cancerdefeated.com. If you go to the archive you'll also find the Sunday issue with Jerry L.'s letter although it's not my usual practice to archive the Sunday articles. They mostly represent my passing thoughts, unlike the Wednesday issues where I research a subject in depth and tell you what I think. Jerry's letter is in the archive at "Issue #59 — Sunday remail".
As you'll see if you look at Issue 18, the things that render your body less acidic are the same things you need to do anyway if you want to prevent or treat cancer: eat nutritious, uncooked organic fruits and vegetables, get rid of all sugar (especially sodas, because they're extremely acidic), get rid of most or all refined wheat products (i.e. white flour products), avoid meat, and so forth.
So if a cancer patient follows this diet and goes into remission, is it because his or her body changed from being acidic to alkaline? Not necessarily. We don't know. The fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients, sugar is known to promote cancer, avoiding toxic substances (such as pesticides) reduces your risk of cancer. In short, there are many, many variables at work and I suspect acidity is not all that important. All this is laid out in Issue 18, to which I referred readers in my response to Jerry L.'s letter. Having the "right" acid/alkaline balance is a byproduct of living right.
But even though I think there are better ways to make your body more alkaline, there's a reason I was struck by Jerry L.'s letter about the amazing changes in his family's health. . .
Continued below. . .
What struck me about Jerry's letter is that it seemed to indicate the acid-alkaline theory might be true. He didn't mention any other lifestyle or diet changes. Apparently the only thing his family changed was their water — and they experienced astonishing improvements in their health.
One letter isn't a scientific study, but I do value anecdotal evidence. If someone gets the kind of results Jerry's family got, I want to know.
Now, about the alleged safety issues: only one reader mentioned a source for the allegations, and that source was an interview conducted by Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has what I believe is the most popular alternative health website on earth, www.mercola.com. If you search on his site for the terms "alkaline water" you can find the video interview I'm talking about. Dr. Mercola talks with a man who sells water systems that COMPETE with alkaline water systems. This man and the good doctor were frankly trashing the competition.
In the video, Dr. Mercola admits there are tons of anecdotes like Jerry's involving people who experienced great results from drinking alkaline water. He doesn't dispute that. The alleged danger arises from long-term use of alkaline water. Dr. Mercola and his associate don't cite any examples of people who harmed their health with alkaline water nor do they mention any studies of long-term safety.
Now, pure water is pH neutral. It's what's in it that makes it acidic or alkaline. Dr. Mercola raises the scare that anything, including water, that's extremely acidic or extremely alkaline literally dissolves matter. It eats it up. That's why your stomach has acid; acid reduces your food to a goop. At the other extreme, an environment that's super-alkaline can do the same thing.
In general, it's the minerals magnesium, calcium and potassium that make water alkaline. So, you see, alkaline water definitely isn't "poison" unless you totally overdo it.
The question is whether alkaline water machines turn water into anything like the powerful, matter-dissolving pH's that Mercola talks about. And since the video is out to sell a competing water system, I would say, do some further research.
You can test the pH of your own water. Just Google the terms "how to test the pH of water" and all kinds of resources come up, including a government publication. I haven't tested the pH of my own water, but I'm on a well in the mountains. My water is so heavily mineralized, I suspect an alkaline water machine is the last thing I need.
Mike Adams says he's actually tested the pH of the water produced by one of the machines. He says, "I owned a unit like that for a while and I have some very high end pH testing equipment that I use for my gardening, because if you're going to grow blueberries then you need the right pH for the soil. Well, these units, sure they produce a little slightly more alkaline water, but it's not that big of a deal. It's not really that drastic. I found that you can create more alkaline water by stirring up some barley grass juice in a glass of water. That's far more alkaline."
On the other hand, no one is going to drink 8 to 16 cups of barley juice a day, so it's not quite comparable to water. And one of the alkaline water machine makers features an interview with a scientist named Ray Kurzweil (http://kangen.net ). Kurzweil says the machines can produce water with a strongly alkaline pH of 9.5. That's not to say they all do. But it does indicate some of these machines produce water that's a lot more alkaline than Mike Adams seems to think.
Mike's recommendation is the same as mine: you'd be better off making yourself more alkaline by eating the right food than by buying one of these expensive machines. The number one recommendation on the list is STOP DRINKING SODAS (or soda pop, as we called it in the Midwest). They're so acidic they cause your body to leach calcium out of your bones in an effort to restore your blood's pH balance. The number two recommendation would be to stop eating any sugar in any form.
Mike Adams opines — and I agree — that the people who see the biggest changes in their health from drinking alkaline water are most likely people who have a really unhealthy diet, especially people who drink a lot of sodas. To them, buying one of these alkaline water machines is probably going to be like Jesus coming down Himself and laying his healing hands on their heads.
If you want to read an all-out attack on alkaline water, there's a book called pH Madness by someone named Roger Bezanis. I haven't read it. I saw his ad on the web which raises hysterical fears about alkaline water, although he, too, admits many people see amazing short term benefits. Most of the concerns he raises (in his ad) relate to long term use of massive amounts of alkaline water.
My take is that long term use MIGHT be risky — no one really seems to have information about the subject — so think of alkaline water as a short term fix. I should think someone with cancer has little to lose by trying one of the machines, especially if he/she refuses to make the dietary changes. Not to be a smart aleck, but a late-stage cancer patient doesn't need to worry about long term effects.
Anti-aging miracle or just another antioxidant?
You've probably heard or read news blurbs about the health benefits of the red wine compound resveratrol. Scientific studies show this powerful antioxidant can protect you from heart problems.
But research also shows this top-notch heart helper can also stop cancer from forming—and even kill a variety of existing cancer cells.
According to the National Cancer Institute, resveratrol is one of a category of plant compounds called polyphenols. You'll find high concentrations of resveratrol in red wine, grapes, raspberries, peanuts, and other plants.
In fact, these and other plants produce resveratrol to protect themselves from fungus, infection and disease. And this same compound can help prevent cell damage and protect humans from diseases too.
Scientists have discovered that resveratrol is a strong antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damaging free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that steal electrons from other cells to become more stable. Cells with missing electrons become damaged and unstable—which can make you vulnerable to diseases such as cancer.
But research shows resveratrol has the power to stop the damage that free radicals inflict on cells. That helps prevent the formation of cancer cells.
Here's What the Science Says So Far…
According to a study published in the July 1st, 2008 issue of Cancer Prevention Research1, Doctors Ercole Cavalieri and Eleanor Rogen of the University of Nebraska Medical Center wanted to determine how resveratrol might impact the formation of cancer cells.
The researchers tested a blend of resveratrol, the amino acid n-acetyl-l-cysteine, lipoic acid, and melatonin. They found that adding resveratrol greatly enhanced the body's natural protective mechanisms.
In their study these scientists tested the formula with and without resveratrol. They found that adding resveratrol greatly reduced the formation of breast cancer cells.
More studies are underway to see how resveratrol affects the initiation, promotion, and progression of cancer. In addition to killing breast cancer cells, studies have shown so far that resveratrol could be an effective way to:
Although laboratory tests show resveratrol might help prevent both cardiovascular disease and cancer, don't bet the farm that it's the ultimate cancer cure…
Noted medical author Dr. Stephen Barrett, M.D. points out that most resveratrol research focuses on short-term effects. Plus, he notes that most studies are performed in labs on non-human models — either on animals or in vitro (that is, on cell cultures).
Barrett expresses concern about the lack of information on how your body absorbs and processes resveratrol—or even about ways in which it may affect your liver. I'm not sure these caveats are that important, but I agree we're short of solid proof that resveratrol is a major new weapon against cancer.
What bothers me most is this: there are a great many antioxidants. Is resveratrol all that unique and special? We don't really know. And as for getting it by drinking wine. . .
Is red wine now a food supplement?
It's important to remember that red wine is the most popular food source of resveratrol. Largely because of the resveratrol studies, red wine has been touted as practically a magic elixir. Many people think they've been handed a "get out of jail free" card where their drinking is concerned.
I don't remember where, but a few years ago I came across a French study showing that heavy red wine consumption over a long period of time drastically cut your risk of Alzheimer's disease. But the amount of wine needed was way more than is healthy.
If you think wine has now been declared a food supplement, I'd say , "Hold on a minute." Increasing red wine consumption to boost resveratrol intake could eventually cause liver damage and addiction!
Also, there's a tendency to assume that resveratrol is the "magic ingredient" in red wine, but wine contains many other compounds and we can't be sure the dramatic results are due to resveratrol alone.
Drink to your health?
In fact, it's not clear where the research is headed on the relationship between alcohol consumption and good health. Beer and hard liquor don't contain resveratrol. But it appears that "moderate" drinking — beer, spirits OR wine, take your pick — will keep you alive longer. And at this point experts don't know why.
That's from Chapter Three of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, just released on January 31. The Guidelines tell us, "Alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation (up to two drinks daily). Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease."
The key finding is, "Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function [i.e. your brain] intact with age."
Two drinks each and every day doesn't strike me as moderate, but I admit it might be safe for most people. Also, there's the problem that the Dept. of Agriculture is famous for circulating idiotic advice about what to eat. For all I know the "scientists" responsible for this finding have ties to the booze and wine industry. That's pretty much the modus operandi among people like that.
I mention the USDA's opinion on alcohol because it adds fuel to the red wine fad, and resveratrol is usually considered the reason red wine is healthy. The news from the USDA suggests there's more going on than just resveratrol.
Because he's not sure about the quality of resveratrol supplements, Barrett suggests occasional use of red wine—along with a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and veggies—could be a safe way to enjoy some of resveratrol's health benefits.
On the whole, I vote for supplements as the way to go, with a little wine now and then (NOT two glasses a day). My take is that resveratrol is a very good antioxidant. The few cancer/resveratrol studies that exist are very encouraging. But I don't think it's a magic bullet.
1 Lu,F., Zahid, M. et al. 2008. Resveratrol Prevents Estrogen-DNA Adduct Formation and Neoplastic Transformation in MCF-10F Cells.Retrieved 1/28/11 from http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/1/2/135.abstract
Barrett, S. 2009. Resveratrol: Don't Buy the Hype. Retrieved 1/31/11 from http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/resveratrol.html
National Cancer Institute. 2002. Red Wine and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet. Retrieved 1/28/2011 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/red-wine-and-cancer-prevention
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