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Water, Water Everywhere

By Inge Theron
Posted On Jul 18, 2016
Water, Water Everywhere

H2O is more than your key to great health. It’s the number-one natural weapon in your age-defying beauty bank.

BY Inge Theron PHOTOGRAPH by Thinkstock

Human beings cannot exist without water, which accounts for 70 to 75 percent of our bodies’ composition. The majority of people, however, don’t give a second thought to its content or quality. Perhaps they take the issue for granted, or assume that water in every bottle is the same. Be warned: not all bottled H2O is created equal, and choosing wisely will impact your health and appearance in dramatic ways.

Water is the vehicle for enzymatic and chemical reactions, helping to transport nutrients, hormones, antibodies, and oxygen through the blood and lymphatic system. We lose one to two pints each day from exhaling alone—our lungs must be moist to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. And that’s before sweating at your favorite Bikram yoga class.

Do we drink from a tap, machine, or bottle? What about ionized water? What is the safest and healthiest option, hydrating and alkalizing the body most effectively? What is the optimal choice for the environment? We are faced with rows of different bottled water brands—the classic version as well as vitamin- and protein-infused “smart water.” Brand spokespeople sport six-packs in advertisements, but small print often reveals that facilities which purify and bottle “smart water” get their water from “municipal water systems.” In other words, they are purifying tap water, at great costs to the environment. While Glacéau—a subsidiary brand of Coca-Cola—fully complies with FDA standards, read the small print: “Drinking water including bottled water may reasonably be expected to contain contaminants.”

Recent studies indicate that most bottled water comes in polyethylene terephthalate bottles (PET)—proven to leak chemicals. These have the potential to interfere with estrogen production and other reproductive hormones in a manner similar to BPA and phthalates. Virgin petroleum is used to make PET, and the more bottles we use, the more virgin petroleum is needed to create new ones. Fossil fuels are burned to fill and then distribute them. While bottled water is convenient, fewer than 20 percent of the bottles ever make it to a second life, according to estimates by the Container Recycling Institute. The remainder is tossed into landfills, where they could potentially be around a thousand years from now.

Tap water may be back in fashion thanks to Tap’d Inc. founder Craig Zucker, one of the first people to commercialize tap water. New York City is famous for above-par tap water—rigorously tested, flowing from the Delaware Aqueduct, and virtually lead-free. Zucker claimed the water was so good, it deserved to be bottled and shelved. Through strong marketing of a simple idea, Zucker was able to put tap water back on the main table by citing the fact that it was fresher than most bottled water.

Reports do, however, identify old and poorly maintained pipes as the primary culprit in NYC water contamination— allowing hidden pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, fecal matter, and other bacteria to sporadically flow from your tap. These pollutants may not cause any serious harm in the short term, but many people are less than keen on letting them slip into their systems.

For Jane Houlihan, Senior Vice President for Research at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), research is key in making a wise water choice. “Our top choice is filtered tap water,” says Houlihan.“When you do choose bottled water, we recommend brands that tell you what’s in the water.” The two musts to keep in mind when reviewing bottled water are pH and ORP (oxidation reduction potential).

Optimal health comes from keeping your system alkaline— this is usually around 7pH. Anything below that is acidic. If you are drinking Perrier, Gatorade, or Dasani—all of which are below 7pH—your body has to work to alkanise via magnesium reserves meant for healthy bones. When faced with a choice, Evian, Zaqual, and Essential are all above 8pH.

Purchase these in a glass bottle and you are doing well. A 2011 study by EWG shows that the bottled water industry routinely fails to provide information to consumers about specific geographical sources, purification methods, and purity testing results. They adorn their labels with scenic pictures but neglect to back up the visual promise with any facts.

“If people are willing to pay 1,900 times the cost of tap water in order to buy water in a plastic bottle, they deserve better than that,” cites the EWG study. Only one of the 173 reviewed bottled water products actually discloses this information on the label and provides information for requesting a water quality test report.

Environmental factors remain a key cause for concern, prompting a search for more sustainable options such as reusable filtered containers from leading brands including BRITA and Hydros Bottle. Product designers are leading the way toward more sustainable water consumption. Fuseproject has designed a glass bottle and created the Whole World Water project, which encourages hotels to filter water onsite rather than importing plastic bottles.

Whole World Water connects hospitality and catering companies with a firm that provides on-site filtration services, eliminating unnecessary wastage while saving money. Ten percent of the proceeds are donated to help people around the world without access to clean drinking water. Home filtration systems from companies such as Japan’s Enagic and their brand, Kangen Water, do a good job in delivering healthy water.

The Kangen filter is certified as a Medical Device by Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare, and is now available for home use. Proponents claim its water is a powerful antioxidant, six to eight times more powerful than green tea, and helps to raise the body’s alkalinity.

It is thought to fight free radicals that damage cells. Kangen, which means “return to origin,” is also “micro-clustered,” meaning water molecules are reduced in size, which is believed to aid in body absorption. Bill Gates has installed 16 Kangen SD-501 machines in his 25-bedroom house. Its biggest fans say that after six weeks of Kangen water, skin glows, nails are longer, teeth appear healthier, hair is lustrous, lips are hydrated, eyes are brighter, and sugar cravings abate.

If bottled water is absolutely your only option, be a stickler for geographical source and purification information. Brands such as Nestlé’s Pure Life Purified Water are acrossthe- board good, as are the higher pH brands like Evian. Avoid bottles where you can, and opt for more sustainable reusable filtered containers or home filtration systems. You’ll be doing your part in keeping our earth healthy, and you’ll feel better than ever before.