Health is in the water

Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2010

We know nearly 70 percent of the Earth's surface is water, and about the same percentage in the human body.

If people focused on the fact that nearly 80 percent of the human brain is made of water, they'd probably drink more of it. But as it stands, more and more of the Western world's fluid intake is being substituted with sugary juices, sodas, colored drinks, milk, coffee, tea and alcohol. How many of us have that friend who never drinks water, unless they are brushing their teeth? Sure, the human body is made to adapt, and people can survive on water substitutes, but at what cost?

Our bodies pay a huge price, according to Harvard School of Public Health, for our longing for fancy fluid. Inadequate intake of water, exchanged for sugary drinks, sodas and alcohol, lead to a higher incidence of Type II diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and compromised immune systems. Sometimes beverages are thought of as "water with color," but actually come packed with a list of things we could, and should, do without (loads of calories, preservatives, sugar, caffeine (a diuretic) and, of course, alcohol).

Our bodies need more water to break down and flush out these substances, but sometimes our bodies are tricked into thinking its liquid needs have been met. Although we do meet some of our requirement by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, scientific research says our bodies depend on a steady influx of water in order to function at peak capacity.

Trends often follow the latest research. Bottled water hit the scene in the 90s and has continued into the 21st century, profiting hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the companies filling the plastic bottles. Many of these bottled water companies are owned by their alternative drink counterpart - Dasani is owned by Coca-Cola, Aquafina by Pepsi, and Perrier is owned by Nestle.

Interestingly enough, the number one reason people report buying bottled water is for safety. With more than 50 percent of all bottled water being sold to people in the West, it should be noted that numerous universities around the country have conducted studies on the safety of tap water and proven over and over that there is no increased risk of drinking tap water from municipal sources than by drinking its bottled water counterpart. The University of New Hampshire proved this in one study by taking a samples from a water fountain in the middle of New York City, finding no increase in bacteria compared to the bottled water sampled.

People love to jump on the trend train, and in some cases out of concern for their own health and longevity. We know we should put down the soda and start carrying a Nalgene bottle instead. It make sense then to fill it up with some good ol' Juneau tap water and give credit to the Earth's filtration system instead of paying some large conglomerate to bottle the Earth's most plentiful resource for us.

• Stacy Hammond is a freelance writer living in Juneau. Her column appears every other week in the Empire's Health section.

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