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Is it safe to drink raw water?

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A person’s body is about 60 percent water, and drinking water is essential to a healthful diet. However, what types of water a person drinks has become surprisingly controversial. One of the emerging trends in late 2017 and early 2018 is the sale of “raw water.” Raw water is unfiltered, unprocessed, or untreated water that is bottled directly from a natural spring. Some manufacturers are selling this water and marketing it as a safer alternative to chemically treated water, maintaining that their water has natural probiotics that help promote digestion and good health. However, scientists and government officials have expressed concerns over untreated water. Raw water may be an instance where “natural” is not necessarily better. It may also be true that raw water does not offer distinct health benefits over a healthful diet that includes drinking tap or bottled water.

Fast facts on raw water:

  • Bottled water must meet specific standards as determined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others are concerned that some companies marketing raw water may not be complying with regulations.
  • Many water experts do not recommend drinking “raw” water.
  • It is up to consumers to decide the type of water they want to drink.

What are the potential risks of raw water?

Sanitation officials and water manufacturers add chemicals to drinking water that comes from the tap or bottles to kill any bacteria and parasites that can naturally occur in water. Examples of these include salmonella, E.Coli, and Giardia. These pathogens can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. The oldest and youngest people are especially at risk for developing illnesses related to these contaminants because their immune system may not be strong enough to fight off the pathogens. Because it is untreated, raw water may contain some of these pathogens. While raw water retailers are not bottling contaminated water, it is possible for bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and other pathogens to be in the water. It is essential for people to choose products that have the reputation of following the FDA’s regulations.

Potential benefits of raw water

Supporters of raw water believe that sterilizing and purifying water with chemicals destroys the natural minerals and probiotics present in water. They believe that by drinking raw water, a person can live a healthier life with improved digestion. Those who advocate the use of raw water believe that it contains more electrolytes and minerals than bottled water, including:

  • calcium
  • copper
  • lithium
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • silica
  • sodium

Supporters also claim that raw water is “alkaline water.” According to its proponents, alkaline water acts as an antioxidant and reduces inflammatory cell damage from oxidation. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, no current studies exist that support the health and wellness benefits of alkaline water over more acidic water. Some people who drink raw water may prefer the taste or the way drinking raw water makes them feel. However, taste is very personal, and there are no studies available to prove whether raw water tastes better or worse than treated water. There is, however, plenty of research on the dangers of drinking untreated water, which may offer more reasons not to drink it than to drink it.

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