What is Reverse Osmosis Water?

If you are a reader of health ezines or offline health publications, there’s no doubt you’ve encountered the popular buzz phrase, “reverse osmosis water.” If you are still crinkling your forehead and asking yourself, “What is reverse osmosis water” you are certainly not alone. There is much confusion on this topic and the purpose of this article is to clear up this confusion.

What Is Osmosis?

Before you can understand reverse osmosis, you first need to understand osmosis. Osmosis is a natural process that occurs in the human body, throughout all living organisms, and throughout all ecosystems.

It is the scientific principle whereby a weaker salt solution will always have the tendency to migrate across a semi-permeable membrane into a stronger salt solution. This occurs passively without adding energy or forcing anything to happen. The same would occur with any solvent, such as sugar, dissolved in an aqueous solution (water solution).

Try this simple experiment!

There’s a simple and fun experiment you can perform with your kids that will drive home what osmosis is and give you a visual of the process…

Fill your bathtub with water. Next, fill one balloon with ordinary tap water out of the same faucet. Fill another balloon with salt water. You can just use ordinary table salt.

The amount of salt doesn’t matter much but you can use a ratio of three parts water to one part salt to make your salt water. Before the water balloon fight breaks out, drop both of these balloons into the bath water and watch what happens over time.

The balloon containing tap water should stay about the same size because the bath water and the water inside the ballon have about the same concentration of solvents (no added salt). The balloon filled with salt water should start to expand because the weaker solution, the bath water, should start to move inside the ballon with the stronger solution, salt water.

How about those swollen feet?

Here’s another example you can think about. When you soak your tired swollen feet in water containing a high concentration of Epsom salts, what happens? The swelling goes down! This is because of the magic of osmosis!

The weaker solution, the water in your swollen feet, moves toward the stronger solution, the Epsom salt water! Like magic, the swelling in your feet goes down!

Let’s look at another example. When you notice that your favorite houseplant looks wilted and unhappy, what do you do? You water it of course! What happens? It perks up, right? This is due to the magic of osmosis! The fresh water you add to your plant naturally gravitates inside the plant where the solution of minerals is much stronger.

Please note that a stronger solution will never gravitate toward a weaker solution during osmosis.

This is a universal truth in nature. Keep this in mind as we explore reverse osmosis.

What Is Reverse Osmosis?

Unlike osmosis, which is a natural process, reverse osmosis is NOT a natural process. In order to get this reverse osmosis to occur, considerable energy must be applied from an outside force. Basically, considerable pressure is applied to force a stronger solution past a semi-permeable membrane into a weaker solution.

Reverse osmosis may happen inside a water purification machine or during an industrial process. Extreme pressure, i.e. extreme FORCE, is applied to a stronger solution to forcibly move it past a semi-permeable membrane. In this process, the substances dissolved or suspended in the water are removed.

Another way to say this is that reverse osmosis is the exact opposite process (reverse process) from osmosis. However, it is not natural for reverse osmosis to happen and it must be artificially induced by an outside force. Generally speaking, the force required to perform reverse osmosis must be generated by a machine as force applied by a human would not be strong enough.

What Is Reverse Osmosis Water?

Many people automatically equate reverse osmosis water with alkaline water. However, you should not make this assumption. Strictly speaking, reverse osmosis water is actually acidic water, i.e. it has a pH of less than 7.0.

This is because water that has been run through a reverse osmosis process has had most of the particulates suspended in the water removed. This includes mineral ions and bicarbonate that buffers water and keeps it alkaline. Without minerals and bicarbonate, water is acidic, not alkaline.

Reverse osmosis is often used to “purify” water. It’s quite an effective way to remove harmful substances like pathogenic bacteria, pyrogens (harmful fever producing substances released by pathogenic bacteria), chlorine, lead, and other heavy metals. However, there’s also a negative side to using reverse osmosis to purify water. It filters out the good stuff too!

This includes healthy minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and silica. Reverse osmosis also filters out bicarbonate which has also been shown to have positive effects on the human body and even increase the bioavailability of minerals.

The reason that people often think that reverse osmosis water is alkaline water, or a type of alkaline water, is because many brands of bottled alkaline water use reverse osmosis as part of their process (so do many consumer end water machines). However, it is only a FIRST STEP when they do so.

After running the water through reverse osmosis, they then take additional steps that makes the water alkaline again. This may include running the water after reverse osmosis through another filter that adds minerals back into the water. It may also include adding in bicarbonate.

Some companies or water machines that make “alkaline water” first use reverse osmosis and then use electrolysis (ionization) to “ionize” it, i.e. run it past electrodes that create ions from the water molecules.

In Summary

Strictly speaking, reverse osmosis water is acidic, not alkaline. This is because reverse osmosis removes the minerals and other substances required for water to maintain an alkaline state.

However, in the vernacular, people sometimes mistakenly use the term “reverse osmosis water” to mean alkaline water that has used this process as the FIRST STEP in treating the water. This is why you should never accept these terms at face value. Always check to see how the water has been treated, every step used.

Is Alkaline Water Good For You?

There is certainly a lot of marketing hype about the benefits of alkaline water…. but is it true? Is alkaline water good for you? Is there any scientific evidence to support these claims? Does it even make sense that it would be? These are the important questions we will explore in this article.

The Basic Science Of Alkaline Water

Before you can understand if alkaline water is good for you or not, you first need to understand the basic science of alkaline water. What is alkaline water? What makes it alkaline? Is there more than one way to make alkaline water?

From a purely technical standpoint, alkaline water is water that tests ABOVE 7.0 on the pH scale from 0-14.

Any solution with a pH below 7.0 is considered acidic. Any solution with a pH above 7.0 is considered alkaline. If a solution has a pH of 7.0 exactly, it is said to be neutral.

Using Electrolysis for Ionization

From a health standpoint, the term “alkaline water” has come to mean much more than merely water with a pH above 7.0. In this context, let’s consider ordinary tap water for a moment, which almost every health expert would agree is not the healthiest water you can drink.

Tap water can vary tremendously in pH, depending on the municipality it comes from, the original source of the water, how it is treated, and how often it is treated.

In fact, you could take pH readings of tap water from your home faucet at different times of the day or on different days of the month and get wildly different readings, with some, if not most, of the readings in the alkaline range. This is because the pH of the tap water will vary depending on when it was last treated and if the treatment of the water has varied.

In nature, with the exception of rain before it hits the ground, water is usually alkaline because it contains natural “alkalizing” agents from the substrate, i.e. the rock and sediments over which it flows or stands.

These agents include dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and silica plus other natural compounds, especially bicarbonate. These natural alkalizing agents continually “buffer” natural water and keep it on the alkaline side of the pH scale.

If natural water tests acidic, this is usually an indicator that the water has been contaminated with man-made substances.

Alkalizing agents exist in ion form when dissolved in water. This means they carry an electrical charge. So, for example, the water doesn’t just contain potassium, it carries potassium ions with a positive charge of plus one (+1).

If the natural alkalizing agents are removed from water through distillation or reverse osmosis, the water will become acidic. Sometimes, this type of processed water is further treated to add minerals and other alkalizing agents back in.

However, if you drink demineralized acidic water, it can be very harmful to your body as it can draw minerals out of your bones. It can also draw minerals out of certain tissues, such as your cardiovascular system, which depend on mineral ions to function properly.

Using Electrolysis for Ionization

Another way to make water register alkaline on the pH scale is to ionize it through electrolysis. This type of alkaline water is sometimes called ionized water or alkaline ionized water. It is also sometimes referred to as reduced water or electrolyzed reduced water, especially in scientific publications where the results of research are found.

It is important to note that ionized water may or may not contain healthy minerals. If water has been put through a reverse osmosis system, the minerals are removed in this process and thus the water becomes acidic.

In some cases, minerals will be added back in to bring it back to an alkaline state. In other cases, the resulting acidic water may be ionized through electrolysis to bring it back into an alkaline state. Some water systems do both.

What Does the Scientific Research Tell Us?

Before we discuss some of the research that has been done on alkaline water, we need to mention a couple caveats that you need to keep in mind as you ask the question, “Is alkaline water good for you?”

First, you need to always consider the funding source of the research study you are reading about. Much of the research that has been done in this area is funded by companies that sell equipment to “alkalize” tap water or they sell alkaline water. Obviously, this research could have an inherent bias. However, having said this, you can trust this research more when the research they fund is conducted by independent third parties such as academics that have a professional reputation at stake.

Second, you need to always be aware of exactly what kind of alkaline water researchers used in the study. Did they use alkaline water that is ionized but contains no minerals? Did they use alkaline water that contains a natural composition of minerals, minerals added back into treated water, or a combination of both?

Always be aware that there are different forms of what the health community now commonly refers to as “alkaline water.”

What Do The Studies on Alkaline Water Say?

A four week 2011 study conducted by Professor Dan Heil and a team of graduate students at Montana State University showed that a specific brand of alkaline water kept people better hydrated than ordinary bottled water containing no minerals.

Further, this study showed that both urine and blood samples were more alkaline in participants that drank the alkaline water. This was a double blind study, meaning neither the experimental group (those that drank the alkaline water) nor the control group (those that drank the bottled water) knew what type of water they were drinking.

The alkaline water in this study contained a natural balance of minerals from glacial runoff as well as some minerals added to the water during processing.

Maintaining a fully hydrated body and a body in a slightly alkaline state has been shown to improve one’s overall health.

Alkaline Water Containing Bicarbonate

Some research has shown that drinking alkaline water containing bicarbonate can help people who are prone to bone loss better than simply adding calcium to the diet or by adding calcium to ionized water. A 2009 study published in the journal, “Bone,” showed that drinking alkaline water containing bicarbonate helps a person’s bones absorb calcium, and thus, lowers bone loss (lowers resorption).

Studies published in 2004 in the Journal of Health Science by a team of Japanese scientists showed that non-mineralized alkaline ionized water (electrolyzed reduced water) was a powerful antioxidant on human serum cells in vitro (blood cells grown in a petri dish). Antioxidants remove free radicals from the body and are thought to be beneficial in preventing diseases such as cancer.

In a search of PubMed and other medical databases, a number of in vivo studies (studies on whole living organisms) from rats to humans have indicated that that alkaline water can have a positive effect on those suffering from a variety of digestive issues. Most of these studies use alkaline water that contains minerals.

A 2006 study published in Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology looked at the protective benefits of alkaline water on human lymphocytes (white blood cells) grown in culture. The alkaline water used was ionized water (electrolyzed reduced water). The protective effect included a resistance to oxidative damage to DNA, RNA, and proteins in the lymphocytes.

In Summary

So… is alkaline water good for you? The available research seems to indicate that it does have positive benefits, especially if it contains minerals. However, you should always be sure to consider the source of funding for this type of research and factor that into how much you trust the results being reported.

Keep in mind too that the cleanest spring water on Earth is much more alkaline than ordinary tap water and full of minerals and bicarbonate. The next best source of alkaline water would be processed water that simulates as closely as possible pristine spring water.

What is Ionized Water?

If you are a health conscious consumer, there’s no doubt that you have asked, “What is ionized water?”

While ionized water is being touted by some as a cure all to everything from acne to cancer, it’s important for you to understand the science behind ionized water before you can actually evaluate the various health claims that are being made. Increasing your understanding of the science of ionized water is what we will focus on in this article.

The Water Molecule

As you likely learned in grade school, water is one of the most abundant molecules on Earth. It’s a relatively simple molecule, composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen molecule. This is why the shorthand, H2O, is often used for water.

While most water molecules stay intact in nature, they do have a slight proclivity to dissociate into two different ions:

1. A positively charged hydrogen missing an electron. This is often written as H+.

2. A negatively charged hydroxide ion consisting of a single oxygen atom and a single hydrogen atom loosely bonded together and containing an extra electron. This is often written as OH-.

If you were to analyze two billion water molecules in a lake, ocean, or other natural body of water, you would only find that about two of them were naturally dissociated into positive H+ and negative OH- ions.

However, to put things in better perspective, there are 8,360,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water in an eight ounce glass of water!

Thus, even though the rate of natural ionization of water is low, there are still a lot of positive hydrogen and negative hydroxide ions floating around in any natural body of water.

What Does a Water Ionizer Do?

A water ionizer uses electrical current to artificially break the water molecule into positive hydrogen atoms and negative hydroxide ions at a rate that far exceeds what happens naturally in nature.

This machine contains both a positively charged electrode and a negatively charged electrode in a bath of water. While the process is often called ionization, it is actually a form of electrolysis as electrons are essentially stolen from the molecules to form the ions.

The electrodes are made of platinum or another type of unreactive metal to prevent the metal from adding metal ions to the water.

After breaking the water molecules apart, the water containing more hydroxide ions is then collected as alkaline water. This is often called reduced water in the scientific literature. The water containing more positively charged hydrogen ions can also be collected as acidic water.

Is “Ionized Water” a Type of Alkaline Water?

Not necessarily! However, the term is often used this way in the vernacular to refer to alkaline ionized drinking water that has been created through a water ionizer. However, ionized water can also be acidic in nature if it contains more positively charged hydrogen ions.

Some ionization systems actually give the consumer the ability to collect water of various pH to use for different purposes.

While slightly alkaline ionized water may be good for drinking and cooking, highly alkaline ionized water would be better suited for cleaning purposes.

Highly acidic ionized water could be used for disinfecting cutting boards. However, to clean wounds, you would want to use only slightly acidic ionized water.

A Note About Taste and Mouth-Feel

When it comes to ionized water, some people notice a different taste, texture or “mouth-feel” right away because some of the water molecules have been restructured into ions, changing the way it may feel compared to normal tap water.

Right at this very moment, somewhere in the world, is a nerdy scientist type in a white coat trying to figure out the perfect magic ratio of ions that will produce the best taste and best mouth feel when you drink the water!

Many people think that alkaline ionized water tastes silkier or smoother than ordinary bottled water or tap water. Some people describe it as “velvety.” Others describe it as being “thicker” than ordinary water, as if you were drinking the consistency of milk instead of water.

Ionized Water May Or May Not Contain Minerals

When people hear the phrase, “ionized water,” some automatically assume it refers to alkaline water. Linked to this assumption is sometimes another assumption that the ionized water contains minerals. However, this is not always true. Also, it may only be partially true. Let’s explain:

Before water is ionized, it may be filtered or distilled. It may also be run through reverse osmosis.

All of these processes remove some or virtually all of the minerals in the water. These processes also remove much of the bicarbonate.

So, the final product of some ionized water may contain few minerals or virtually no minerals.

It could also be the case, and often is in fact, that after the processes that removed the minerals and bicarbonate were completed, some minerals and some bicarbonate were added back in. In fact, the process of ionization is difficult with zero minerals.

However, keep in mind that the minerals may be synthesized versions and the full complement of minerals that you would normally expect in water may not be there in the final ionized water product.

In Summary

Now that we have explained the science behind ionized water, we hope this helps you to decipher between the real science and pseudoscience of the various health claims that are made about ionized water.

Remember, ionized water is not a natural form of water. It is created by adding an electrical current to water and thereby breaking apart some of the water molecules into positive and negative ions.

Alkaline ionized drinking water is slightly alkaline and contains more negative hydroxide ions, OH- ions, than positive hydrogen ions, H+ ions. Further, the final ionized water product may or may not contain minerals.