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Soft water and heart disease.

A new study strengthens the apparent link between water softness and risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers in the Health Effects and Epidemiology Section at Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory compared the well water of 505 Wisconsin farmers, aged 35 to 80, who died from heat attack or stroke, with the well water of 854 living Wisconsin farmers who show no clinical evidence of heart disease.

Magnesium and calcium largely determine water "hardness" -- the higher their concentrations, the harder the water. An analysis of several variables, including mineral content and pH, showed the strongest association between water softness and heart disease risk in persons whose water contained low levels of calcium, according to group leader Elaine Zeighami. In other words, she says, "soft water does seem to imply greater risk." But that observation applies only to naturally soft water, she adds. Her data suggest that artificial water softening at the tap, using salt, does not contribute to risk.

Not only was the relationship between soft water and heart disease risk "moderately strong" among the relatively homogeneous population Zeighami studied, but it increased in strength as the hardness of the water decreased. For example, there was a 30 percent increased risk of heart attacks among those drinking water containing 25 parts per million (ppm) calcium as compared with those whose water had 75 ppm; however, the data suggest there would be an 80 percent higher risk of heart attacks among those whose water had no calcium, when compared with those whose had 50 ppm.
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Author:Ralof, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 21, 1985
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