While water is vital to life, many of the contaminants in it are not!
A list published by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States has shown that tap water can contain pesticides, bacteria, birth control pills, antidepressants, viruses, and even radioactive contaminants like plutonium. Reverse osmosis (RO) has become popular in recent years to deal with this issue. Still, one question remains: Does reverse osmosis remove valuable minerals?
The reality is that reverse osmosis uses a semi-permeable membrane to remove unwanted large particles, leaving only hydrogen and oxygen (H20). Unfortunately, essential minerals like calcium and magnesium that our bodies need are also removed.
This article addresses what we can do about it.
Minerals in Water
When it comes to our health, the important minerals found in tap water are calcium and magnesium. Originating as rainfall, natural sources of drinking water collect these minerals as they flow down mountains and through rocks on their way to rivers and streams.
One essential mineral most people are aware of is calcium. Vital for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, calcium helps muscles relax, and is essential to nerve function, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, and immune system health.
Magnesium is another essential and often underrated mineral. Found in the bones, it is needed for protein production, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and overall immune system health.
A study of tap water across 21 major North American cities compared their mineral content with commercially available bottled waters. While it was found that mineral levels varied among the various sources, it was determined that half supplied between 8% and 16% of calcium requirements, and between 6% and 31% of magnesium requirements. The sample size was based on drinking 2 liters of water per day.
Difference Between Mineral and RO Water
RO water is devoid of minerals, and as a result, is more acidic than tap water. Studies comparing the two have shown mineral concentrations below the standards of the World Health Organization, with recommendations for remineralization.
And while it may be anecdotal, I have seen in my research some comments from people complaining of a “flat” or “bitter” taste to RO water. This may deter some people from drinking enough to stay hydrated.
A solution for many (me included) has been to add some Himalayan sea salt. It improves the taste, but the amount of additional minerals is so small that I could not find reputable sources stating any health benefits.
Bottled water vs Tap Water
The same study referenced in the previous section found that bottled water contained even higher concentrations of minerals than tap water. One liter of moderately mineralized bottled water in Europe found between 20% and 58% of calcium requirements and between 16% and 41% of magnesium requirements. Note the profound difference in mineral content when compared with two liters of tap water!
Despite this evidence, bottled water has its issues. The chemical content in the plastic is high, and they are absolutely terrible for the environment.
There has even been some evidence that companies just bottled tap water!
Clearly, there must be a better solution than bottled water.
Ways to add Minerals to Reverse Osmosis Water
Two popular ways people remineralize their RO water are a reverse osmosis system with a remineralization stage, and special mineral drops.
RO System with Remineralization Stage
While most RO systems work in five stages, some advanced RO units feature the sixth stage with an alkaline remineralization filter that restores healthy minerals and the alkalinity level. Many people report that this gives the water a more natural taste than regular five-stage processed water from conventional units.
Trace Mineral Drops
Trace mineral drops are a popular way for people to remineralize their water without having to buy a new unit. Besides calcium and magnesium, some brands add other vital minerals like Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, Sulfur & Zinc.
Is Drinking RO Water Bad For You?
There is some debate concerning the health benefits (or consequences!) of RO water.
Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart of the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin gives a balanced approach to answering this question:
Processed food, stress, and other environmental factors can deplete minerals from the body, and it appears that RO water can make this situation worse. The best course of action appears to be a mineral-rich diet, along with mineral-fortified water to replenish calcium and magnesium stores.
Do you need to remineralize RO water?
While opinions may vary, my research has shown that if someone has a very high intake of minerals from their diet, they may be able to offset the negative effects of RO water.
Does RO affect the PH of water?
Yes. The RO process does lower the PH of water because minerals are alkaline. The absence of these minerals lower the PH and makes the water slightly acidic. To address this issue, some RO units include a remineralization stage to add the minerals back. This increases the PH to make the water more alkaline.
When it was first discovered, reverse osmosis appeared to be a miracle solution for our contaminated drinking water.
As time has gone on, many health authorities have cautioned people against drinking RO water because of the reduced mineral content. I decided to research this issue because I drink reverse osmosis water, and want to make sure I’m not harming my health.
Eating a diet rich in minerals seems to be a solution to this problem, according to Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart. That sounds great to me! And if I want to address the issue further, I can buy a new RO unit with a remineralization stage and/or remineralization drops.
So what do you think?
I’d love to hear about your experiences!