Health Benefits of Mineral Water
If you are confused by conflicting arguments on the health benefits of mineral water, keep in mind that they are not all the same.
Natural Mineral Water
Water that comes out of the ground will pass through several layers of rocks and will contain the mineral elements of these rocks. Depending on the source, some of these dissolved minerals may either be good or bad for health. Hence, mineral water from these sources will vary in its content and quality.
Bottled Mineral Water
Once these mineral waters are bottled, the quality will again be affected by the bottling method and on how it was stored.
Read on for further clarification. You will also learn how to identify a good product by its label.
What Is Mineral Water?
Definition according to the FDA
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
"Mineral water is any natural water that contains at least 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids (TDS). It must be verified through a lab test whereby a litre of water, evaporated at 180 degrees C, should leave a residue of minerals and salts.
Up to 249 mg/liter is classified as 'Spring Water'.
From 250 to 500 mg/liter is considered 'Low Mineral Content' or Light Mineral Water
Above 500 mg/liter is considered normal or High Mineral Content.
This mineral water must be from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. It can either be flat or sparkling. No minerals may be added to this water."
However, in other countries, these standards may vary and the term "mineral water" can be water with a lower TDS. So when you travel abroad, be extra careful with the quality of bottled water. Read the label to learn more.
What Are the Health Benefits?
Are there any health benefits in drinking mineral water?
There are many and the most important reason is that the minerals in the water benefit you because of their healing properties.
Our body can more easily absorb minerals from water as opposed to food. Hence, you gain more by drinking.
Here are some of the benefits.
1. Detoxifying Properties
It helps detoxify the body from any potentially harmful substances.
The best time to benefit from this process is to drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Start with one glass and gradually progress to two glasses.
There are no calories in mineral water, so you don't have to worry about weight issues.
3. Replaces Electrolytes
Our sweat is water that has varying amount of dissolved minerals in it such as chloride, sodium, calcium, iron, potassium, and others. Hence, when we sweat, we get rid of body heat as well as water and these electrolytes.
Drinking mineral water helps replenish what is lost and can balance the electrolytes in the body.
4. Source of Calcium
For people who suffer from lactose intolerance, drinking mineral water will provide part of their calcium intake.
Refer to the World Health Organization report for more detail (below).
5. Lowers Cholesterol
This may surprise you, but based on a study published in 2004 by the Journal of Nutrition, drinking mineral water can lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the good cholesterol (HDL).
The study concluded that this may be due to sodium content present in mineral water.
6. Hydrates More Effectively
Based on studies, (by S. Williams, N. Krueger, M. Davids, D. Kraus and M. Kerscher in 2007), drinking mineral water (as compared to tap water), shows a better skin-hydrating effect.
Drinking it, especially the sparkling kind, will motivate you to drink more since it tastes better than tap water!
So keep the body hydrated and drink at least eight glasses of water. Drink even more if you work out, or are out on a hot sunny day.
7. Prevents Cognitive Decline With Alzheimer's
Based on a report from the UK's The Daily Mail newspaper, drinking a liter of silicon-rich mineral water every day can reduce the cognitive decline in Alzheimer's. This is done by removing the neurotoxin aluminium from the body.
The newspaper quoted research done at Keele University in Staffordshire, England.
The brand of water that was used in the study was 'Spritzer', from Malaysia, which contains high levels of silicon.
Other brands with similar levels of silicon that are available in the UK are Volvic and Fiji water, as reported by The Daily Mail.
8. Thermal Baths or Spas
Natural thermal waters are hot mineral waters with a high concentration of sulfate, calcium, and chloride. It has been used for centuries to improve skin and mobility problems such as arthritis.
It works by reducing inflammation and swelling of the muscles and joints, hence reducing the pain.
This water is however, not suitable for drinking due to a very high level of sulfate.
The word 'SPA' which is associated with thermal bath, is a Latin phrase ‘Salus Per Aquam’ which means ‘health through water’.
9. Good Minerals
Mineral water contains the following minerals that are beneficial to your health. There are also minerals that may be harmful. This is clarified in the next section.
- Magnesium: Helps strengthen the immune system, relaxes the body and muscles, and lowers blood pressure
- Chloride and Bicarbonates: Helps balance the digestive system
- Iron: Helps deliver oxygen to the blood system
- Sulfate: Cleanses and detoxifies the body
- Calcium: Strengthens the bones and teeth
Although there are other minerals present in mineral water, the above are the most commonly present in all brands. They are also responsible for giving each brand its distinctive taste.
10. Helps Improve Blood Regeneration
The water that you drink will help the body renew your blood.
This happens every 15 days. Hence, if you drink better quality water, you will have blood with better properties.
Generally most mineral waters are of high quality, which will be beneficial to this process.
11. Boosts Athletic Performance
In the study done at the University of Montana, people who drink mineralized water lose body fluids at a slower rate as compared to those who don't.
This translate to better cardiovascular performance. Hence, you will not only have more energy during your workout or exercise, but you will also recover faster.
12. Good for the Hair
The next time you wash your hair, try using mineral water. Shampoo as normal with tap water, then rinse with bottled mineral water. Try this for two weeks and you will see noticeable results.
You will get healthier and shinier hair, as reported in a Daily Mail newspaper article.
Alternatively, you can spray your hair with mineral water or mix it in your favorite hair spray before you blow it dry. Try Evian water, which now sells mineral water spray for the hair and face.
Why Others Dispute the Health Benefits
Some of the reasons given as to why it is not healthy to drink mineral water are:
- It will give you essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. However, some brands may also have minerals which are not so beneficial, like sodium, sulfur and nitrate.
- Although you need minerals to maintain a healthy body, these can be taken by eating a healthy and balanced diet or by taking supplements. The body needs minerals only in small quantities. Hence, there is no need to drink mineral waters to get them, especially since each production will provide a different composition.
- Bottled drinks, including bottled mineral water are not healthy. Chemicals in the plastic bottle may be released into the water, especially if it is left in a car on a hot sunny day.
- Bottled water costs more compared with tap water.
In response to the above comments, it is proposed that you do the following:
- Read the label before buying to see its content. Generally most brands have reasonable amounts of minerals that will not give any undue disadvantages
- Buy only new production bottled mineral water and not old stock to reduce any chances of leached chemicals.
- Do not leave bottled mineral water in an area exposed to direct sunlight or heat, such as in parked cars on a hot sunny day.
How to Read the Label and Know What You're Buying
Before you buy bottled mineral water, please read the label. You will be making a healthier choice by understanding its contents.
Check for the following:
- Sodium: If your diet is already high in hidden sodium and you combine that with mineral water that is also high in sodium, you may well exceed the recommended limit. This will be harmful, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure.
- Nitrates: Mineral water with high nitrate content may be harmful for pregnant women and babies under six months old. It is, therefore, best to avoid brands that have nitrate content. The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate is 45mg/l. For nitrogen MCL is 10mg/l. For nitrite, the MCL is 1mg/l.
- Aluminium: Although the effects of aluminium are still uncertain, especially with regard to Alzheimer's disease, it is best to avoid brands that have traces of it in their water.
- Sulfates: As sulfates are present in most ground-waters, you will find almost all brands with traces of this mineral. Sulfates are known to detoxify the liver, assist in digestion, and improve skin health by increasing circulation. It will also reduce any muscle cramps. However, if it is in excess of 250-500mg/l, it will not only make the water taste bitter, but will also act as a laxative. Not a very good idea especially if you are on the move.
Note: Refer to 'Codex Code for Mineral Water' (CODEX STAN 108-1981) for more information on the maximum allowable amounts of the mineral substances in the bottled Natural Mineral Water. Look up for 'CODEX Standard for Natural Mineral Waters' which is in PDF format.
Additional Info to Check on the Label
Some bottled mineral water may either be distilled or tap water that has been processed and added with minerals during the bottling stage.
Hence, read the label to know if you are buying a natural mineral water or otherwise.
Also read the label for the following:
- Acidity (pH): Mineral water should be neutral and have a pH level of 7 or slightly higher. Below 7 means the water is acidic and above 7, it is alkaline.
- Total Dissolved Solids (TDS): According to the FDA, it must be at least 250 mg/liter (or 250 parts per million)
- Other mineral elements that may be present in the water are listed below. Some of these are beneficial to your health, whilst some are not. For commercial reasons, no sane manufacturers will bottle mineral water that has minerals that are harmful for human consumption!
- Any pertinent nutritional claims
- Any contact information for the bottler
- Type of water, its source, and how it was processed.
If in doubt, contact the bottler and ask for their latest test results.
Minerals That May Be Present
- Aluminum (Al)
- Arsenic (As)
- Borondioxyde (BO2-)
- Bromine (Br-)
- Calcium (Ca++)
- Chloride (Cl-)
- Cobalt (Co)
- Carbondioxyde (CO2)
- Chromium (Cr-)
- Copper (Cu++)
- Fluoride (F-)
- Germanium (Ge)
- Hydrogencarbonate (HCO3-)
- Iodine (I)
- Iron (Fe++)
- Lithium (Li+)
- Magnesium (Mg++)
- Manganese (Mn+)
- Nitrate (NO3-)
- Rubidium (Rb)
- Silica (SiO2)
- Sodium (Na+)
- Strontium (Sr++)
- Sulfate (SO4--)
- Zinc (Zn++)
Why Is Water Important?
About 70% of our bodies are filled with water, but this figure varies differently with different people.
The various organs in our body also contain water.
- Our brain is 70% water
- Our lungs are 90% water
- Blood is 83% water
- Our lean muscle tissues are 75% water.
Every day we lose body water through sweat and other body wastes. On average, we must daily replace about 5 pints of water, daily.
Hence, it is important that we replenish it because it will:
- Transport oxygen and nutrition to the cells in the body
- Help cushion our joints
- Assist in bowel movements
- Help regulate our body temperature
- Reduce the chance of getting urinary tract infections
- Help maintain good kidney function
- Regulate our blood pressure and stop it from dropping to life-threatening levels
- Keep blood from clotting and defend against blood clots
- Help moisturize and keep our skin from being dry
- Reduce the chance of getting frequent headaches
Drinking appropriate quantities of good quality water will, therefore, keep our body in good working condition.
Now you know why you should stay hydrated and why drinking lots of water will keep you healthy.
With its many health benefits, it is a good idea to drink natural mineral water to replenish lost water.
However, remember that not all brands are the same. Mineral water comes from many sources and will not taste the same or have the same mineral content.
So before buying any, please read the label for its sources and ingredients.
Choosing the right brand will give you the right health benefits.
Stay hydrated and enjoy.
References & Resources
- World Health Organisation on Calcium and Magnesium in Drinking Water
- World Health Organisation on Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality
- International Journal of Cosmetic Science: Effects of Mineral Water in Skin Hydration
- The Journal of Nutrition: Reduction in Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Risk
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Absorbability and Utility of Calcium in Mineral Water
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effect on Magnesium Bio-availability from Mineral Water in Healthy Women
"This article is written for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being."
© 2012 Mazlan