Kawhi Leonard's Air Ball On Alkaline Water

By Josh Bloom — Mar 10, 2017
Kawhi Leonard is intelligent, soft-spoken, modest and a thoroughly likable young man with an incredible work ethic. But during a recent interview the NBA star helped perpetuate one of the worst health scams around — that drinking alkaline, or high pH, water has health benefits. Should Leonard be called for a technical foul?  

The San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard is indisputably one of the best basketball players on the planet. Leonard, who is only 25, continues to improve every year. This year he has been so good  that his name is now being mentioned as an MVP candidate, and rightly so (1). He is by all accounts an intelligent, soft-spoken, modest and thoroughly likable young man with an incredible work ethic. 

But in a recent interview in GQ, he unwittingly (presumably) helped to perpetuate one of the worst health scams around—that drinking alkaline (high pH) water has health benefits, for example treating or preventing cancer or "detoxifying" your body. It is absolute nonsense, and also chemically and physiologically impossible.

"Here’s a look at the steadfast daily diet of San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, who swears by high-alkaline waters."

Mick Rouse, GQ Magazine - March 9, 2017

It is unfortunate that the water comment "leaked" its way into the interview, because everything else that Leonard has to say is worth listening to, such as eating fresh food and vegetables while on the road rather than relying solely on restaurants and not playing on a full stomach. Good, sensible stuff.

GQ should know better. The alkaline water health claim has been debunked and then debunked again and again..... yet it refuses to die. 

(See: Stupid Whole Foods TricksPure Unstructured Structured Water - Because Some People Will Buy Anything)

While some sites equivocate ("there is no evidence..."), I'm going to go one step further. The fake health claims of alkaline water are chemically impossible. This is because of one of the cornerstones of chemistry—the acid-base reaction. It is one of the fastest of all chemical reactions, which is why alkaline water is useful for exactly one health condition - heartburn (2).

Acid-base reactions are so fast that they are referred to as diffusion controlled, meaning that the slowest step is simply the acid and the base "finding" each other in solution. Then the reaction is instantaneous. This is what happens in your stomach, and is where antacids get their name. If enough bicarbonate is consumed, it will also temporarily raise the pH in the rest of the GI tract and the urine. But NOT THE BLOOD (3).

When alkaline water, in this case, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), is consumed, it immediately neutralizes stomach acid (hydrochloric acid), forming table salt and carbonic acid, which is unstable and breaks down to CO2 gas (this is why you might belch). Your magic alkaline water is now gone (3), something that dopes who have purchased it online should have known.  

How to (literally) piss away $9.84 plus tax and shipping. 

Or you could try this instead:

Five cents each at Costco. And they're gluten free!!!

I was thinking of calling a technical foul on him for the alkaline water thing, but he's just too nice. And has had none called on him in his entire NBA career.


(1) Leonard's offensive stats alone qualify him as an MVP candidate, but he is recognized as the best defensive player in the game. I wish he was on my fantasy basketball team instead of the bunch of idiots I picked. I selected a highlight video for all you sports fans. The guy isn't human. Enjoy.

(2) There can be legitimate medical reasons for administering a base. For example, in the case of aspirin poisoning, raising the pH of the stomach also (temporarily) raises the pH throughout the GI tract. This neutralizes the aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) and facilitates excretion in the urine.

(3) The pH of human blood is tightly regulated by the body, ranging from 7.35 to 7.45. Certain disorders (e.g., ketoacidosis) and drugs can make the blood  significantly more acidic. This is a medical emergency. 

(4) Depending on temperature and concentration, this reaction takes about 0.000000000001 seconds.

Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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