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Medical News Today: What are the health benefits of mineral water?

Mineral water comes from underground reservoirs. Unlike regular drinking water, mineral water does not undergo chemical processing.

As the name suggests, mineral water contains high quantities of minerals, especially magnesium, calcium, and sodium. But is mineral water better than regular water, and what are its benefits?

This article discusses some possible health benefits associated with drinking mineral water.

Mineral water vs. regular water

woman experiencing mineral water benefits
People often choose mineral water because of its possible health benefits.

All living organisms need water to survive. Not only does water support essential physical functions, it also provides vital nutrients that the body does not produce on its own.

While most people in the United States have access to clean drinking water, many people choose bottled mineral water for its perceived purity and potential health benefits.

How does mineral water compare with regular water? Based on the current evidence, the differences are not very significant.

Both types contain minerals and undergo some form of processing. However, by definition, mineral water must contain a certain amount of minerals, and the bottling process takes place at the source.

We discuss the differences between tap water and mineral water below.

Tap water

The water in household taps comes either from surface or underground sources.

In the U.S., tap water must meet the Safe Drinking Water Act standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These regulations limit the number of contaminants present in water supplied to homes.

Public water suppliers move water from its source to treatment plants, where it undergoes chemical disinfection. The clean water ultimately gets delivered to households through a system of underground pipes.

Tap water contains added minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Hard tap water has higher mineral contents, which some consider more healthful. However, minerals in hard water form deposits that can corrode pipes or restrict the flow.

Also, despite the efforts of public water suppliers, contaminants from rusted or leaking pipes can pollute drinking water.

Mineral water

Mineral water comes from natural underground reservoirs and mineral springs, giving it a higher mineral content than tap water.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), mineral water must contain at least 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids. The FDA prohibit these manufacturers from adding minerals to their products.

Minerals that are often present in mineral water include:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • bicarbonate
  • iron
  • zinc

Unlike tap water, mineral water is bottled at the source. Some people prefer mineral water due to its perceived purity and the lack of chemical disinfection treatments.

However, mineral water may undergo some processing. This can include adding or removing carbon dioxide (CO2) gas or eliminating toxic substances, such as arsenic.

CO2 helps prevent oxidation and limits bacterial growth in mineral water. Naturally carbonated water gets its CO2 from the source. Manufacturers can also infuse their water with CO2 after extraction.

The next sections discuss five potential benefits of drinking mineral water.

1. A source of magnesium

Both bottled mineral water and tap water can be sources of magnesium. This nutrient plays essential roles in regulating blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and nerve function.

Some sources have more or less magnesium than others. The amount of magnesium in water can range from 1 milligram per liter (mg/l) to more than 120 mg/l, depending on the source.

The daily recommended allowance for magnesium is as follows:

  • 310–320 mg for adult females
  • 400–420 mg for adult males

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, most people in the U.S. consume less than the recommended amount of magnesium.

Below are some symptoms of magnesium deficiency:

  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • nausea and vomiting

A severe deficiency may cause some of the following:

  • numbness or tingling
  • muscle cramps
  • low calcium or potassium levels
  • mood changes
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • seizures

2. Lowering blood pressure

Having low levels of magnesium may contribute to high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and conditions that cause irregular heartbeats.

Mineral water rich in magnesium may therefore help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A small-scale 2004 study involving 70 adults with borderline hypertension and low magnesium levels found that drinking 1 liter of mineral water per day decreased their blood pressure.

3. Regulating blood circulation

Mineral water may contain large amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which promote blood circulation.

Calcium is necessary for building and maintaining strong bones. It also regulates the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat.

4. Strengthening bones

close up of male athlete stretching leg
The calcium in mineral water may help strengthen a person’s bones.

Mineral water contains calcium, which helps promote bone strength. When bone tissue breaks down, the body deposits new bone in its place.

During adolescence, new bone is deposited faster than old bone breaks down. However, after the age of 20, bone loss can start outpacing bone formation, which can lead to brittle, weak bones.

Regular exercise and diets rich in calcium can strengthen bones and prevent bone loss.

Authors of a 2017 study compared how the body absorbs calcium from milk, calcium supplements, and mineral water. They concluded that mineral water with high amounts of calcium can, in fact, improve the body’s calcium supply.

Magnesium also supports strong bones. The results of a large-scale 2014 cohort study suggested that older women with a high magnesium intake, of more than 422.5 mg per day, had more bone density than those with a lower intake of the mineral.

5. Promoting digestive health

Getting enough magnesium in the diet can help prevent constipation and improve the health of the digestive system.

Magnesium draws water into the intestines, which improves stool consistency. It also relaxes the intestinal muscles, supporting regular bowel movements.

According to the findings of a randomized controlled study, drinking mineral water containing magnesium sulfate and sodium sulfate led to more frequent bowel movements and an improved quality of life among people with constipation.

Risks

Mineral water is generally safe to drink. Very little research points to any immediate negative health impacts associated with drinking plain mineral water.

Carbonated mineral water contains carbonic acid, which can cause hiccups or bloating.

However, mineral water and other bottled water may contain specific contaminants. By definition, mineral water must contain a minimum quantity of microbes.

Furthermore, mineral water cannot undergo the same disinfection process as tap water because it is bottled at the source, so the range of microbes can vary.

Plastic toxicity

Many plastic containers contain bisphenol A, or BPA. This chemical can interfere with normal hormonal function.

Microplastics, tiny plastic particles, are another potential concern. Scientists have identified microplastics in foods and drinks, as well as seafood products, beer, and table salt.

In 2018, researchers published a systematic review of current data on plastic toxicity. While they acknowledge that more research is needed, the authors report that microplastics in bottled mineral water do not appear to pose a safety risk.

Carbonated water damages teeth

Sparkling, or carbonated, water can damage tooth enamel.

Carbonated water has a lower pH than regular water, making it slightly acidic. According to a recent study, sparkling water manufactured by a soda carbonator significantly reduced enamel hardness on teeth in a laboratory setting.

However, carbonated water still has less of an impact on the teeth than drinking soda. One study showed that flavored and plain sparkling water both pose less of a risk to tooth enamel than soda.

Environmental concerns

One major issue surrounding mineral water involves the container. The large-scale production of plastic bottles causes pollution and has serious consequences for the environment.

In a 2016 study, researchers looked at the various environmental impacts of regular water treatment, mineral water in plastic bottles, and mineral water in glass bottles.

They found that tap water processing methods were the most favorable option. The scientists also noted that producing glass bottles consumed the largest amount of raw material and required the most energy.

Outlook

young woman looking at her teeth in mirror
Drinking carbonated mineral water may damage tooth enamel.

Mineral water contains large quantities of magnesium, calcium, sodium, and other beneficial minerals.

Studies suggest that drinking mineral water may have health benefits, though little research directly suggests that it is better for a person’s health than tap water.

People who want to buy mineral water can find it in supermarkets or choose from brands online.

Also, in the U.S., the EPA strictly regulates tap water quality to ensure that it is free from harmful microbes. Tap water also contains added minerals, making it a cheaper alternative to mineral water.

Drinking carbonated mineral water may cause some tooth erosion, but not to the same extent as sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas.

Mineral content in tap water varies by location. People in the U.S. can check the EPA’s water quality reports by state. These annual reports contain information about water sources, levels of contaminants, and mineral contents.