Minerals, Distillers & Distilled Water
Written by William Fryer - MA Oxon
by William Fryer MA Oxon
Will distilled water “leach minerals from bones? Are you missing out on essential minerals if you drink distilled water? Should you remineralise distilled water? What about organic vs inorganic minerals? We get asked these questions more than any other, there's a huge amount of opinion about these topics on the Internet so we're going to answer them with science.
Let's start by reminding ourselves of why people drink distilled water. Ironically you discover the reason why people drink distilled water the first time you look at what is left behind in your distiller. For us in Wiltshire, it's a combination of limescale and a kind of orange liquid that smells a bit like emulsion paint. I collected a month's worth of it together and I challenge anyone to drink it. It is vile. So drinking distilled water means we are simply drinking pure water - something our bodies are designed to do. Now let's tackle the first of these mineral questions:
Does distilled water “leach” minerals from bones?
Some people believe that distilled water, because it is very, very slightly acidic, can strip your bones of minerals. The idea that distilled water “leaches” minerals from bones is an example of what is called “truthiness”, it sounds like it could be true so people believe it. In reality it is non-science.
A small amount of distilled water will bond with atmospheric carbon dioxide to form a very weak acid so distilled water (a while after distillation) will have a pH about the same as a banana c. pH6. However, our bodies work hard to maintain a blood pH of 7.35 to 7.45, if it goes outside that range your body’s enzymes stop working and you need to go to hospital very quickly. So the idea that blood pH could ever be acidic enough to leach minerals from bones is just crazy; you would be dead a long time before you reached that point. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that distilled water can leach minerals from bones.
CONCLUSION: distilled water does NOT leach minerals from bones.
Are you missing out on minerals if you drink distilled water?
Some people argue that because distilled water has had all the minerals removed, your body will be missing out on vital minerals. Let's look at the facts. Humans evolved in jungles where the primary water source is distilled water in the form of rain, so we evolved to get minerals from food not water. The idea that water is a valuable source of minerals is again non-science. Take a look at this table, it lists the amount of minerals present in Evian (a good benchmark mineral water), the amount of minerals your body needs and how much Evian you would need to drink if you used it as your source of minerals.
|Mineral||Quantity in 1L of Evian||Daily Requirement||Daily Volume of Evian Needed|
To get enough Sodium from Evian, you would need to drink 882 litres a day. It you were able to drink that much water you would overload your system and die before you got any of the benefits. The fact is, we get vitamins and minerals from food.
Additionally, it's easy to think that just because it's called a “mineral” it must be good for us and we must need it. Let's take Sodium. Yes our bodies need Sodium but the reality is most people are massively overloaded with Sodium because we all consume far too much Sodium Chloride (salt). In fact the table above lists a daily requirement of 6g.
Most people in the UK consume 8+g of salt which is part of the reason why 58% of people over 65 have high blood pressure which leads to strokes, coronary heart disease, vascular dementia and chronic kidney disease. Biologically we only actually need 1g of salt per day, the Government set a target of 6g because they thought 1g was simply unachievable. So just because it is called a “mineral” does not mean we need as much as possible.
Any water, even the best mineral waters are NOT good sources of minerals. And some of the minerals they supply we actually get too much of anyway. If you want minerals go and eat fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. Additionally, because we are evolved to get vitamins and minerals from food you find their bioavailability to your body is greater than getting them from a source like water.
CONCLUSION: water is not an effective mineral source, food is. Many of the minerals in water we are over-supplied with.
Do you need to remineralise your distilled water?
The debate rages. Some people believe in adding minerals to their water some do not. Our opinion is that ultimately you get vitamins and minerals from food. However adding a mineral supplement to distilled water can improve flavour for some people and it can provide trace elements. That is why we created two mineral supplements specifically for distilled water. Formula 56 is for everyday drinking water and Formula 78 is designed for sports drinks.
CONCLUSION: It is not essential, but some people do out of personal preference.
Organic vs Inorganic minerals?
This is a HOT topic. You will see people on the Internet talking about organic vs inorganic minerals. I am going to attempt to explain this debate in simple terms. Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon and all BIOchemistry is organic chemistry. We are a carbon-based lifeform - most of the structures in our bodies contain some kind of carbon-based molecule. Inorganic chemistry is non-carbon chemistry.
Minerals are typically inorganic: Sodium Chloride (salt) and Calcium Carbonate (limescale) are examples of (inorganic) minerals. There is a class of chemicals called organic minerals, for example, carpathite, amber, oxammite, calclacite - these are not used by the body.
The only organic mineral which has any role in human biology is urea which is formed by the breakdown of protein and is excreted by the body. There are a lot of people who refer to “organic minerals” and include compounds like Methionine and Cysteine. These are not “organic minerals” they are amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. They are useful to the body but they are not “organic minerals”.
The five major minerals in the human body are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. All of the remaining elements in a human body are called "trace elements". The trace elements that have a specific biochemical function in the human body are: sulphur, iron, chlorine, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, iodine and selenium.
Normally mineral ions like Sodium are reacted with an inorganic acid to create a salt eg. Sodium + Hydrochloric Acid = Sodium Chloride. A bar of Sodium cannot be digested by the body but when the Sodium is in a compound, eg. Sodium Chloride, it can be absorbed. Our body ingests the Sodium Chloride (aka salt) and splits it in two to use the individual components. There is also another class of minerals which are “chelated” minerals, this is where the mineral ion, eg. Zinc, is bound up with an organic acid.
Searching the 20 million articles on Medline, I managed to find 23 articles with references to “organic minerals”. In these instances “organic minerals” are defined as those where the active mineral eg. Zinc has been chelated with an organic acid, eg. Zn(2-hydroxy-4-methylthio butanoic acid)2 rather than being supplied in an inorganic form eg. Zinc Sulphate. And there is limited evidence (none of it with humans) that this type of “organic mineral” may have some benefits.
Those I have come across include: better oviduct morphology and stronger shells in chickens; better digestibility of minerals in pigs; and more bioavailability of Zinc in calves. So there is limited evidence to suggest that this type of organic mineral (some of which are available as “chelated minerals” for humans) may have limited beneficial effects, based on limited testing on animals. In a way, the idea that minerals such as Zinc or Iron when combined with organic acids become more bioavailable makes sense alongside the fact that we get minerals from food. But more research needs to be done in this area before conclusions can be drawn.
CONCLUSION: There are many definitions of what an “organic mineral” is. Strictly speaking, organic minerals are not used by the human body other than as a waste product. What is often sold as “organic minerals” online are not organic minerals but amino acids. Testing on animals shows that “chelated minerals” which can be referred to as “organic minerals” because they are combined with an organic acid, may make them pass through the gut barrier more effectively, but scientific evidence is limited.
William Fryer MA Oxon
William is a Human Scientist and director of Megahome-Distillers.co.uk. Having worked for 22 years in the corporate environment he now works as a Physician Associate at a major teaching hospital. His interests include: human beings, white water kayaking and walking in rugged environments.