The Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center

Are Specialty Waters Worth the Price?

Posted on by Karen Sabbath, MS, RD, CSO

Americans spent $31 billion on bottled water in 2018, with the average American consuming 42 gallons. In fact, bottled water has become the country’s number one beverage, according to Consumer Reports. Most people think that bottled water is safer or healthier than tap (or municipal) water, but 64% of all bottled water sold in the United States is just filtered tap water.

Water is really good for you. In fact, you can’t live without it, and many Americans don’t drink enough. But are all waters created equal? Are some “healthier” than others?

The choices seem endless: alkaline, spring, artesian, mineral, purified and sparkling, just to name a few. Some of these come with a hefty price tag. Are these “designer” waters worth the price? Do they actually benefit our health and prevent disease as promised on many of the promotional materials?

Common Types of Water

Alkaline water has been around for years, but has recently experienced a surge in popularity (and price). Claims state that drinking alkaline water hydrates you more rapidly and can help to cure cancer, among other things.The term “alkaline” refers to pH, or potential hydrogen. Foods with a low pH are considered to be acidic, while those with a high pH are basic, or alkaline. A pH of 7 (as in regular drinking water) is considered neutral. Alkaline water contains salts and metals to increase the pH to a level greater than 7.Different parts of our bodies have different pH values. For example, the stomach contents are highly acidic, helping to break down food and kill harmful bacteria. The kidneys and lungs intricately and tightly regulate the pH of the body with slight variations in blood pH, resulting in major health consequences, so whatever you eat or drink has little effect on the pH of your blood. Unfortunately, there is no significant clinical evidence to support the claim that alkaline water is healthier. Although it is certainly not harmful and may play a role in very rare circumstances, it is unlikely to provide a siifi- significant benefit over regular water.

Mineral water contains at least 250 parts per million (0.000025%) of dissolved solids, with a consistent amount of trace elements at the source. Bottlers are not allowed to add additional minerals.

Municipal source water is a fancier name for tap water, and accounts for the majority of bottled water.

Purified water has been treated to remove chemicals and other solids. Distilled water is one example. Most of the public drinking water in the U.S. is already purified and highly regulated in order to minimize or eliminate contamination.

Spring water is supposed to be obtained from underground formations in which the water naturally flows to the surface or through a well that taps directly into a spring. There are currently numerous lawsuits against companies that claim to have spring water that, in fact, contains no spring water (e.g. Poland Spring).

Other controversies associated with bottled water include the excessive use of plastic packaging, as well as other potential contaminants that can be found in water, such as PFAS, a chemical residue used in firefighting foam and cardboard boxes.

Interested in learning how your bottled water stacks up? Go to: https://www.consumerreports.org/water-quality/find-out-whats-in-your-bottled-water-water-quality-reports/

Bottom Line on H20:

Drinking water is an essential way to remain hydrated. Many of us need to drink more to meet our hydration requirements. Sometimes water from your own tap is the cheapest option and will provide you with the maximum benefit.

Questions about nutrition? Contact nutritionist Karen Sabbath, MS, RD, CSO, at 203-575-5510 or email ksabbath@leevercancercenter.org.