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Distilled water: could it lead to deficiencies?

A widely disseminated article on the internet by Zoltan P. Rona, MD, Msc, asserts that " drinking distilled water on a regular, daily basis is potentially dangerous." In Rona's experience, people who only use distilled water for cooking and drinking "develop multiple mineral deficiencies." He says that adding trace minerals to distilled water alleviates the problem somewhat but not completely. Worries about toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and pathogens in drinking water have pushed many consumers to use distillers or reverse-osmosis filters to purify their water. (Reverse osmosis also produces low-mineral water.) Are consumers trading one problem for another?

Because Rona's article does not contain specific studies in its reference, I did a web search and found a 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) report called Nutrients in Drinking Water. This report discusses health effects associated with drinking distilled water from desalination plants. This water is not totally devoid of minerals. Desalination plants always add some minerals back into the distilled water to slow corrosion in pipes. Nonetheless, laboratory studies have shown that low-mineral water causes negative effects in animals and humans. Rats who consumed low-mineral water for one year showed "reduced secretions of tri-iodothyronine and aldosterone, and increased secretion of Cortisol," according to a Russian study in the WHO report. The rats' extracellular body water increased, as did their sodium blood level, urine output, and loss of sodium and chloride ions via urination. Human subjects experienced similar increases in extracellular body water, urine output, and sodium blood levels. In addition, studies have found that people drinking low-mineral water eliminate more sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium ions.

Proponents of distillation have various suggestions for remineralizing water: a grain of rice placed in a jar of distilled water, sea salt, various trace mineral products, and additives such as Willard's Water and Hallelujah Acres' WaterMax. Willard's Water, developed by John Willard in the 1960s, enhances nutrient absorption, according to independent tests. I am not aware of in vivo tests involving these other remineralizing suggestions. Good-quality drinking water involves more than mineral content. One of the more interesting discussions of optimal drinking water comes from Michael Donaldson, PhD, director of research at Hallelujah Acres. In assessing drinking water, he looks for ionic mineral content, an alkaline pH (over 7), and lowsurface tension. The lower the surface tension, the more easily the water and accompanying nutrients are absorbed and assimilated by the body.

Finding unbiased, clear-cut information about the health effects of drinking water processed with various filters and treatments is very difficult. Most of the information is tied to a product. An astounding variety of water filters, treatments, and supplements is available in the marketplace. Since water quality and quantity are a keystone of naturopathic medicine, I wonder if practitioners have empirical evidence that can help us sort through the options.

Donaldson M. Water--the choice for long-term health [Web page]. Hallelujah Acres website. Accessed November 10, 2008.

Donaldson M. Water--the choice for long-term health [press release--Web page]. Hallelujah Acres website. Accessed September 1, 2008.

How does Catalyst Altered Water work? [Web page]. Official Willard Water Web site. Accessed November 12, 2008.

Rona ZP. Early death comes from drinking distilled water [Web page]. Chet Day's Health & Beyond Web site, Accessed November 17,2008.

World Health Organization. Nutrients in Drinking Water. Geneva: WHO Press; 2005. Accessed November 10, 2008.

briefed by Jule Klotter
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Title Annotation:Shorts
Author:Klotter, Jule
Publication:Townsend Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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