Bottled Water: Is it Really Better? (cont.)

"If your tap water is fluoridated and you don't want it, you can get bottled water that is not fluoridated," says Kay. "If your water system isn't fluoridated but you want it, get fluoridated bottled water. It's all about giving consumers choices."

According to Wisconsin cardiologist William Davis, MD, at least one of those choices might even help to save your life -- if you bypass tap water that's low in magnesium in favor of a bottled mineral water that has high levels of the mineral.

"Magnesium deficiency has reached a level such that a measurable increase in sudden death has been reported in regions with the lowest water magnesium levels," says Davis, author of the book The Plaque Tracker.

Further, he says, a recent World Health Organization report cites 80 studies that have looked at the relationship between cardiovascular death and water "hardness" (measured principally by magnesium and calcium content) and concludes that a lack of magnesium is a heart disease risk factor we cannot ignore.

But just drinking bottled water - even mineral water -- is no guarantee you'll get your magnesium boost, Davis says. You have to read the label.

Your water "should contain at least 250 milligrams total dissolved solids (TDS), an indication of its mineral content," he says. Bottled mineral waters that meet or exceed minimum magnesium levels include BIOTA, Apollinaris, Evian, Gerolsteiner, and Pellegrino.

New York University nutritionist Samantha Heller, RD, notes that you can also eat magnesium-rich foods.

"Peanuts, broccoli, tofu, sweet potatoes - all are rich sources of magnesium,'' says Heller. "You don't have to get it from water."

Finally, there is one more, perhaps ultimate, reason some people choose bottled water over tap: It's a taste thing.

"When discussing the choice between bottled and tap water, you cannot ignore taste as a deciding factor," says Michael Mascha, publisher of

Like those of us who can tell Coke from Pepsi, he says, some can tell tap from bottled water -- and even detect differences among the bottled brands.

"If you can satisfy your palette and do your body good by drinking water, then why not spend the money you would spend on soft drinks on a fine bottled water?" asks Mascha.

1 Bottle at a Time

While drinking bottled water may have its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. Some have argued that the FDA is not always vigilant about enforcing regulations, sometimes allowing less-than-honest claims about a water's source and purity to slip by.

Further, some environmentalists charge that even when the water is safe to drink, the plastic bottles it comes in pose a hazard to the environment. Manufacturing them helps to pollute the air and burn oil resources, these groups say, and the bottles come back to haunt us a second time when they show up in landfills.

According to the research organization Earth Policy Institute, American's demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil a year -- enough to power 100,000 cars. And the Container Recycling Institute reports that 86% of plastic water bottles in the United States end up in landfills. When burned, they produce byproducts that may be harmful to humans and the earth, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

Moreover, at least two Italian studies reported that chemicals used to make most water bottles could leach into the water itself. This could result in residues that, at least preliminarily, have been shown to disrupt DNA and increase cancer risks.

At least one bottled water marketer -- David Zutler, a Colorado environmentalist and new player in the bottled water game -- says he's found the answer to these problems. And it's sitting smack in the middle of a cornfield.

Scientists at the University of Nebraska had been experimenting with a natural "plastic" bottle made from corn. And when Zutler was ready to bring his BIOTA Colorado spring water to market, he helped fund the development of the new, planet-friendly corn bottle.

"On the one hand, I had this totally pristine Colorado water source, untouched by any agriculture or industry, and on the other hand, I had plastic packaging made from fossil fuel, with questionable health concerns," says Zutler. "So when I heard about this totally safe new corn plastic, I thought this is the answer."

BIOTA is the first (and as of now the only) bottled water to come packed in the environmentally friendly corn-based plastic bottle. The bottle does not leach chemicals into its contents, Zutler says. And while many recycling plants are not yet equipped to handle the new bottles, Zutler says that it's an easy - and profitable - renewable process.

If the corn-based bottles do end up in a landfill, Zutler says, they burn clean. And he says that the manufacturing process saves over a barrel of oil for every 80 bottles consumed.

There's another option for people who like the idea of bottled water but are concerned about waste: Another Colorado-based company, New Wave Enviro Products, sells a combination Better Water Bottle Filter that uses the new corn-based bottle. Reusable up to 90 times, the filter turns any tap water into cleaner drinking water, while the corn bottle offers an environmentally safe way to carry it.

Published July 14, 2006.

SOURCES: "Bottled Water: Better Than Tap?" FDA Consumer Magazine, July-August, 2002. Stopping Plastic Beverage Bottle Debris at the Source, Container Recycling Institute presentation, Plastic Debris-Rivers to Sea Conference, Sept. 7, 2005. "Bottled Water -- Pouring Resources Down the Drain," Earth Policy Institute, February 2006. "Evaluation of the Migration of Mutagens/Carcinogens From PET bottles Into Mineral Water by Tradescantia/Micronuclei test, Comet Assay on Leukocytes and GC/MS," The Science of The Total Environment, Jan. 20, 2003; vol 302: pp101-108. "Toxicological evaluation of commercial mineral water bottled in polyethylene terephthalate:a cytogenetic approach with Allium cepa," Food Additives and Contaminants, December 2000; vol 17: pp 1037-1045. Press release, Athena Waters. Press release, New Wave Enviro Products. Top 10 Consumers of Bottled Water, Beverage Marketing Corp. 2004. Stephen Kay, vice president, communications, International Bottled Water Association, Washington. Erik Olson, director of advocacy, National Resources Defense Council, Washington. Brenda M Afzal, RN, MS, bottled water specialist, University of Maryland School of Nursing. William Davis, MD, author, The Plaque Tracker, Milwaukee, Wis. Samantha Heller, MS, RD, senior clinical nutritionist, New York University Medical Center, New York City. Michael Mascha, publisher, David Zutler, chief executive officer, BIOTA Spring Water, Telluride, Colo.

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