Friday, June 7, 2013

Mineral Water: Glorified Soft Drink or Elixir of Life?

Recently I’ve found myself obsessively addicted to mineral water. Never much of a fan for soda, but still an enjoyer of that bubbly feeling in your belly you get after downing a carbonated drink, I was very pleasantly surprised when I recently discovered mineral water. It was an odd and unexpected discovery as I’ve absolutely detested the stuff my entire life, and quite honestly I do not know what spurred this sudden change of heart. At any rate, I’ve heard circulating myths about the health benefits of mineral water, some of which claim that it’s the elixir of life and the solution to all of your health woes, and others claiming that it destroys the enamel on your teeth and should not be a staple of your diet and lifestyle. Getting to the point of this blog post however, I’ve never read anything from a credible source on the subject, so I decided to do a little research.

Before getting into the health benefits of mineral water, I’d just like to briefly explain what mineral water is. Mineral water is defined as water that originates from a spring, and is characterized as having a high content of minerals such as various types of salts and sulfur compounds. It’s typically captured from a naturally carbonated spring; both the water and the carbon dioxide are captured separately, and then are re-combined during the bottling process. Then, via typical economical and commerce routes, the water eventually ends up at your grocery store or in my case favorite coffee shop, which you then purchase and consume. Tap water on the other hand, comes from a natural body of water, is stored at a watershed, goes through a series of both natural and chemical treating processes, travels varying distances through (sometimes very old and rusty) pipes before ultimately coming out of your faucet and reaching your glass. Some people have filters on their faucets which add an additional, final, filtering step to the process. Depending on where you live, substances such as fluoride may or may not be included in your water, and, depending on the quality of your city or town’s infrastructure and water processing facilities, you may or may not be ingesting other harmful chemicals and substances.

Anyways, getting back to the point; is mineral water good for your health? In short, there isn’t really a straightforward answer. One of the best qualities of mineral water is the naturally high calcium content. As most of us know, calcium is essential for the growth and maintenance of health and strong muscles and bones. As osteoporosis (essentially “weak” bones) affects such a huge percentage of our population, it’s apparent that adding more calcium to our diets may be a really good idea for many of us. Increasing our calcium intake via our water may also serve an additional benefit in our quest against obesity as mineral water has zero calories and is fat free - a huge plus when compared to dairy products’ high caloric and fat content.
On the other hand, I’ve heard many people talk about how mineral water is corrosive to your teeth. Upon investigating this however, I found several studies that actually suggested the opposite effect. Often, mineral water contains both fluoride and calcium ions that actually serve a protective role against enamel erosion. It is true that the carbonation and dissolved gas in the mineral water contribute to enamel degradation, however many studies have suggested that not only is this counteracted by the fluoride and calcium content, but that the positive effects strongly outweigh the negative.

After my research I will definitely continue to down my Perrier guilt-free. Particularly as a woman with numerous osteoporotic relatives, I need the increased calcium intake and really enjoy the taste. I am a little bit worried about the slightly increased risk of developing kidney stones, but it’s a gamble I’m willing to take for now. Before deciding whether or not you should add or remove mineral water from your diet, as always, it’s best to learn about these chemical interactions for yourself and make your own educated decision based on your own health needs. As a good starting place for your research, consider checking out this study on pubmed. 


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