bottled water

What’s the Function of Functional Water?

Everything You Want to Know about the Hottest Trend in the Wellness World

With something so pure and simple as water, you’d think that when it came to hydration options that the choice should be clear. But leave it to the ever-growing consumer market to unleash a deluge of new drinking water trends. The already oversaturated bottled water market has led manufacturers to focus on setting their product apart. How are brands doing this with something as basic as water? The answer: Functionality.

Plain, old H2O is now having to stand up against hip, trendy options like protein water, alkaline water, and even caffeinated water. As consumers angle away from sugary, calorie-dense sodas,  functional waters are gaining more and more space on store shelves. Many of these brands are touting an array of health benefits–ranging from preventing cancer to reducing anxiety.

Reports suggest that the functional water market is set to double by 2020. We’ve done some digging into the most talked about functional water trends and are here to report what we’ve learned.

What Exactly is Functional Water?

Functional water is “enhanced” drinking water aspiring to improve your health. Some are chemically altered (i.e. by adding increased oxygen or hydrogen); some are simply infused with oils, extract, or flavors. While bottled water has long been criticized for contributing to environmental waste, the convenience and potential added perks of functional water has kept the industry not only afloat, but booming.

Some of the biggest players in the game have created not only new types of products, but all-out crazes. We’ve investigated the following functional water fads and will let you know if we’re drinking the kool-aid (so-to-speak):

  • Alkaline Water

  • Hydrogen-Rich Water

  • Electrolyte Water

  • Caffeinated Water

  • Infused Water

Alkaline Water

We’ve already done some myth-busting in regards to alkaline water on Tips for Taps. But we’ll do a little recap...

What is alkaline water?

The rage around alkaline water surrounds its pH (potential hydrogen). A measure of the relative amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in the water, pH is a logarithmic scale ranging from 0 to 14. Each step of the scale corresponds to a ten-fold change in acidity–liquids closer to 0 are very acidic, and those nearer 14 are very alkaline. Pure water has a pH of 7.0 (and is considered “neutral”).

Alkaline water generally has a pH between 7 and 9.5–and with that higher pH, it also has a higher concentration of alkalizing compounds (such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium).

What’s the claim?

Alkaline evangelists claim that by neutralizing acid in the body (via consuming alkaline food/beverages), the following will occur:

  • Increased fertility

  • Increased energy

  • Regulate your internal pH level

  • Prevent diabetes

The list goes on and on. Some even purport that that alkaline water prevents cancer. (Hint: it doesn’t). But, how did these grandiose, cure-all claims come to be? Here’s the general (and flawed) logic:

Cancerous cells can’t survive in a highly alkaline environment. This is true. Additionally, areas in close proximity to the cancer cells turn acidic–also correct. Therefore, it follows that if you increase your body’s overall alkalinity, you can kill/prevent cancer cells from growing.

What’s the verdict?

While that logic above appears to (almost) add up, there is one key issue with this claim: while cancer cells can’t live in highly alkaline environments, neither can any of your other cells.

So even if alkaline water were able to shift your body’s acid-alkaline balance (which it can’t, by the way), it wouldn’t be good news for any cells in your body (forget just the cancerous cells). Your body works hard to maintain a safe pH environment of around 7.4–pretty much no matter what. The scientific community has yet to rally behind the miracle properties of alkaline water. What is known is that if you do drink lots of the alkaline liquid, most of what happens is that you excrete alkaline urine.

Hydrogen-Rich Water

What is hydrogen-rich water?

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this particular functional water fad–as it is often confused as alkaline water, or even as water molecules with “extra” hydrogens. It’s neither of these things. Simply put, hydrogen-rich water is just infused with molecular hydrogen by dissolving H2 gas dissolved in the water.  

What’s the claim?

The hype surrounding hydrogen-rich water is predicated on the fact that hydrogen shows antioxidant activity that results in lower “oxidative stress” which is associated with negative health outcomes. Proponents claim that hydrogen-rich water protects against free radicals, which can damage cells and lead to disease.

What’s the verdict?

Hydrogen-infused water is generally recognized as safe (GRAS Certified) by the FDA and continues to receive accolades and testimonials from folks who attest to the natural benefits of consumption. Scientists are continuing their research into the potential benefits surrounding hydrogen-rich water.

The bottom line is is that the jury is still out on this one. Stay tuned.

Electrolyte Water

The electrolyte water craze extends beyond dumping Gatorade on coaches at the end of a football game. In fact, the electrolyte-enhanced water market is one of the fastest growing sectors in the functional water world. It is estimated to generate revenues of over $8 billion by 2023–growing at a rate for 10% between 2018 and 2023.

What is electrolyte water?

Electrolytes are minerals in your body with an electric charge. Electrolyte-enhanced water is often infused with potassium and sodium, which can help your body absorb the water more quickly.

What’s the claim?

Useful after periods of fluid loss (intense exercise, bouts of vomiting, diarrhea etc.), electrolyte-enhanced water can help prevent and treat mild to moderate dehydration. It can also help prevent muscle cramping.

What’s the verdict?

While sports drinks do not necessarily contain enough electrolytes to be an adequate resolve for dehydration, after bouts of fluid loss they can be beneficial. However, if you spend your days sedentary, drinking water with electrolytes won’t help you achieve better hydration (than drinking regular water). We also recommend you always take a look at the sugar content on the label–as many enhance waters have additional (and unnecessary) sugar.

In sum, after sports or being sick, grab electrolyte water, but don’t rely on it for regular hydration–or you’ll just be consuming unneeded sugar and using environmentally harmful plastic.

Caffeinated Water

What is caffeinated water?

If you’ve ever had an early Monday morning, you won’t be surprised to know that caffeine is the most popular mood-altering drug in the world. We usually get it from coffee, tea, or colas–but now we have the option to get in from our water.

Unlike the confusion often surrounding alkaline and hydrogen-rich water, caffeinated water is pretty straightforward. It’s water mixed with caffeine–to create a tasteless beverage with a jolt.

Depending on the brand, caffeinated water contains anywhere from 45 milligrams to 125 milligrams per bottle. To put that in perspective, the typical cup of coffee has about 95 milligrams of caffeine.

What’s the claim?

Caffeine is a mild stimulant to the central nervous system and there’s evidence that caffeine may help improve memory, enhance workouts and boost concentration. The claims that have caffeinated water evangelists shouting from the rooftops are typically rooted in the following notions:

  • It’s a calorie-free way to get caffeine

  • Coffee is dehydrating, and caffeinated water is a good way to prevent possible dehydration

What’s the verdict?

We’ll address the “calorie-free” part first.

Yes, that’s true that caffeinated waters (the ones without added sugar) are calorie-free. But if you typically get your caffeine from coffee or teas–which clock in at 1 and 2 calories per serving, respectively–this isn’t the most compelling reason to switch. While it’s not wrong, we’re much bigger proponents of drinking something out of a nice chemical-free glass or ceramic mug, than a potentially BPA-laden plastic container.

Moving on to the issue of dehydration.

Caffeine–no matter the medium it comes in–is a diuretic. So, if that’s your concern-–it doesn’t totally check out. What’s more is that even if you get your caffeine intake from coffee, you are still consuming water (remember coffee is coffee plus water). Finally, despite increasing your need to urinate, drinking coffee isn’t actually dehydrating. So, that tick mark that caffeinated water fans put in the victory column is not quite as powerful as they may have you believe.

Infused Water

What is infused water?

From cucumber water at spas to asparagus water at Whole Foods (yes, that’s real….and expensive), infused waters can be a great option to add taste without calories. While we aren’t entirely certain why anyone is looking to drink asparagus flavored water, infusing water with citrus fruit or herbs can be a nice twist on the old classic.

What is the claim?

The biggest benefit is that you’re likely to drink more water throughout the day. You may also get some small plant-based health perks–like water infused with lemon can add some antioxidants to the mix.

What’s the verdict?

The greatest thing about infused water is that you can make them at home. No need to buy expensive water that’s packaged in plastic bottles in a store–which brings us back to our old friend…tap water.

How Does Tap Water Compare?

In general (and there are exceptions), these fancy, fad, functional waters won’t harm you. If you are buying them pre-packaged in plastic however, there is the guarantee of an environmental impact. Until more concrete evidence emerges, we recommend you keep to your (tested) tap water–as it will cost your wallet and the environment far less.

For any more questions about drinking water (bottled or tap) send us a message at hello@simplewater.us.

Article Sources:
https://alkalinewatermachinereviews.com/alkaline-water-benefits/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5806445/

https://www.nutraceuticalsworld.com/issues/2016-03/view_breaking-news/functional-waters-market-to-double-by-2020

https://mytapscore.com/blogs/tips-for-taps/bottled-water-when-is-it-worth-it

https://mytapscore.com/blogs/tips-for-taps/alkaline-water-a-critical-review

https://mytapscore.com/blogs/tips-for-taps/your-water-s-general-chemistry

https://www.britannca.com/science/alkali

http://www.myhdiet.com/healthnews/health-news/alkaline-water-benefits-truth-water-alkaline-ph-neutralizes-acid-body/

http://alkalinewatermachinereviews.com/alkaline-water-benefits/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27297008

http://alkalinewatermachinereviews.com/alkaline-water-benefits/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/01/09/no-drinking-alkaline-water-will-not-treat-or-prevent-cancer/#241ec9d02abb

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702352/

http://time.com/4907106/hydrogen-water-health-benefits/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5223313/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/

https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/gras/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5806445/

https://www.reportsnreports.com/reports/1730940-electrolyte-and-vitamin-water-market-global-outlook-and-forecast-2018-2023.html

https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/water-balance/dehydration

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1150229/

https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a19692526/alkaline-water-electrolyte-water-activated-charcoal-health-benefits/

https://www.livescience.com/56603-interesting-facts-about-caffeine.html

https://www.livescience.com/5374-coffee-lessens-pain-exercise.html

https://www.livescience.com/29200-caffeine-hidden-sources.html

https://www.livescience.com/6520-caffeine-counteract-cognitive-decline.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19774754

http://time.com/5192272/coffee-tea-dehydrating/

https://qz.com/473224/dont-let-whole-foods-ruin-the-refreshing-experience-that-is-infused-water/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318662.php

https://helloglow.co/infused-water-ideas/

https://www.livestrong.com/article/370249-what-are-the-dangers-in-drinking-alkaline-water/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/bottled-water-costs-us-2000-times-more-than-tap-is-it-worth-it

Are Microplastics in my Drinking Water?

Microplastics-TITLE_1024x1024.png

Microplastics are in the environment and they are there to stay. 

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, measuring less than five millimeters in length. That’s about the size of a sesame seed, and they can be as small as the period at the end of this sentence (or smaller). 

While you might be familiar with large plastic gyres in the ocean, a recent study suggests that most of the plastic waste in the ocean is not visible on the surface, but rather hidden as microplastics in the water and in marine life. 

An easily recognizable form of microplastics in our everyday life is microbeads–those tiny beads found in face washes and toothpaste. While those microbeads may make your teeth shine and your face shimmer, they’re ending up everywhere in our environment, including our drinking water.

In 2015, President Barack Obama banned microbeads in personal care products and other several countries followed suit. The problem, however, is far from over. Microplastics continue to end up in oceans, lakes, inside animals, and even in drinking water from other sources (like clothing).

Plastic doesn’t decompose or breakdown the way that organic matter does, so when large pieces of plastic degrade into smaller bits, they persist in the environment indefinitely. 

Almost all of the plastic ever manufactured is still on earth. And we're finding it in our drinking water.

Where do Microplastics Come From?

Much of what we manufacture and use (and a huge chunk of our waste) contains plastic. Microplastics come from tires rubbing against pavement, from synthetic clothes, and from paint dust floating through the air. 

Most microplastics are in the form of microfibers. A study commissioned by Patagonia© found that a single fleece coat can release up to 250,000 microfibers in one washing cycle

Are Microplastics in my Drinking Water?

The short answer? Probably, according to a recent study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Orb media.

Plastic has long been a problem for ocean and lake ecosystems, leading to the emerging field of study on microplastics. Knowing how pervasive plastic is in our world and our waters, the question remains: are we drinking it too?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and journalists at Orb sampled drinking water from metropolitan areas around the world. Overall, they found that 81 percent of samples contained microplastics. 

In the US alone, 94% percent of drinking water samples were found to contain microplastics.

Can Microplastics Affect My Health?

What is all this plastic in and around us doing for our health?

Studies have shown that plastic can absorb toxic chemicals in the environment and leach them out. Put simply, plastic can carry toxic chemicals and then release them later on, exposing people to harmful chemicals. This happens after people have ingested microplastics, but also from drinking bottled water that’s been left in the sun. Those toxic chemicals—such as bisphenol A (BPA) and di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), which can disrupt hormone levels — can stay in your gut or move to affect other tissues.

Research has shown that microplastics can also be a vehicle for pollutants such as metals and dioxins, which can cause reproductive and developmental problems.

As plastics break down into smaller and smaller particles, they can infiltrate into tissues, making their way into the bloodstream. Most research has been conducted on the effects of ingesting plastic in wildlife populations, but similar research is beginning with humans.

As microplastics are a relatively recent field of study, the effects of microplastics on human health remain largely unknown.

What Can I Do?

While we don't yet know what the health impacts really are, there are a few ways you can filter your water that will likely remove microplastics:

1) Carbon filter

2) Reverse osmosis 

3) Ion exchange 

In selecting a treatment technology, check the pore-size. Microplastics in the Orb study were about 2.5 microns. A filter with a pore size less than 2.5 microns will remove most microplastics from your tap water. 

Don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like more suggestions, or if you want to test your water for microplastics to learn more. 

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971730207

https://www.outsideonline.com/2091876/patagonias-new-study-finds-fleece-jackets-are-serious-pollutant

http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124006/meta

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0194970

https://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics/multimedia

http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526/2153?utm_source=trend_md&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TrendMD_RS_Sales

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep03263?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000313

https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/reveh.2013.28.issue-1/reveh-2012-0030/reveh-2012-0030.xml

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969717302073

http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dioxins-and-their-effects-on-human-health

http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526/2153?utm_source=trend_md&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TrendMD_RS_Sales

http://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/study-links-chemical-in-plastics-to-genital-abnormalities-in-baby-boys/

Growing Concern: How Water Quality Impacts Your Fruits and Vegetables

A Guide to Choosing the Right Water for Your Vegetable Garden

Food Production and Water Quality (2).png

Whether it’s talking to your plants or adding nutrient-rich fertilizer, there are a multitude of ways people help their plants grow. A great way to ensure healthy plants is to use the right water to nourish them. Water quality can impact your plants in a variety of ways, and this is even more important when it comes to growing fruits and vegetables. The things you grow in your vegetable garden presumably make it into your body. This not only means that clean water impacts your plants’ health, but it can have an effect on your health, as well.

We’re here to explain:

  1. How water quality impacts your vegetable garden
  2. What type of water you should you use to water your produce
  3. Other factors influence the quality of your fruits and vegetables

How Water Quality Impacts Your Vegetable Garden

Just as food nourishes our bodies, water serves as the lifeblood for plants. Plants absorb water through their roots that subsequently moves through their vascular system. As water disperses across a plant’s leaves, stems, buds, flowers, and fruit, it carries with it a variety of crucial nutrients–functioning similarly to the human circulatory system. However, just like water carries the vital elements throughout a plant, it also may carry contaminants. These contaminants range from biological (microbes) to chemical (heavy metals). While contamination is less of a concern for ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables given poor quality water can directly impact your health. Increasing evidence not only suggests that contaminated water causes nutritional imbalance within the plant, it also indicates a link to increased foodborne illnesses from microbes, parasites, and viruses, in humans. The concern is greatest in leafy vegetables that tend to be eaten without cooking.

This begs the question: What’s the best type of water to use when watering your plants?

What Type of Water Should You Use to Water Your Plants

From tap water to bottled water, there can be a lot of confusion surrounding the best water for growing fruits and vegetables. We’re here to here to clarify what water leads to the healthiest plants–and in turn, the healthiest you.

The first thing we want to note, however, is that the parameters of what is ‘safe’ for plants are different than what is ‘safe’ for  human consumption. The next thing to remember is that, no matter what source you use to supply your garden with water–temperature matters. Our tip: avoid extremes. Exceedingly cold water can lead to root shock, while excessively hot temperatures can burn the plant.

Watering Plants with Municipal Water:

The most common concern people often have about using city water when irrigating their vegetable gardens is the added chlorine. If you receive your water from a public water supplier, it is highly likely–98% likely, to be specific–that your tap water contains some amount of the disinfectant (up to 4 parts per million). Chlorine serves as an effective means of removing pathogens from drinking water, but many gardeners fear that it will also eliminate many of the beneficial microbes in the soil. However, there are two key factors that do not make chlorine a major threat to microorganism populations:

  1. Microorganism reproduce at such a rapid rate that–even if chlorine kills some of the microbes–their populations can easily rebound in a short amount of time if you have healthy soil quality.
  2. When chlorine enters the ground, it binds to the surface soil particles and does not travel to the beneficial microorganism colonies that live in the lower soil layers.

While the average chlorine concentration in tap water (up to 4 parts per million) has not been shown do lasting damage to plants, chlorine toxicity is still possible. A tell-tale sign that your fruits and veggies may be suffering too much chlorine is if their leaves appear burnt.

How can you remove chlorine from your tap water? An easy (and inexpensive fix) is to let the water sit for a day or two in an open container. This allows the chlorine to vent in gas form. Note: if your water contains chloramines, this method will not work. In order to eliminate these chlorine/ammonia compounds is to use an active removal system (such as a catalytic carbon filter).  

If you are concerned about other contaminants in your water–like heavy metals–, we recommend investing in a water filter–especially if you use your tap water for drinking! Check out our guide to water filters to help you make the right choice–we know it’s confusing! One rule to follow: water that has passed through a water softener should not be used for horticulture. it is likely to be high in potassium or sodium. Elevated levels in either can buildup up in soil over time and high salt levels can cause your plant to die of thirst.

Watering Plants with Well Water:

Although ground water (i.e. your well source) is less likely to contain microbial contaminants than surface water, your well water may still wind up with a host of different contaminants. Well water begins as rain and snowmelt. It makes its way into your well by filtering through the ground. As it soaks through the soil, it can pick up a variety of contaminants depending on what chemicals or pathogens are present.

Evidence on how heavy metals impact vegetables suggest that some plants take up metals more readily than others, but scientists have found elevated of arsenic in California wines due to grape vines taking-up naturally occurring arsenic from soil and groundwater.

Our suggestion: if you have a well you should test it and consider testing your soil quality, too. Whether or not you are growing zucchinis, it’s always best to know what you are putting in your food (and body.)

Watering Plants with Bottled Water:

There are  a lot of myths surrounding the health benefits of bottled water. Despite what you may think, bottled water is not always cleaner or safer than tap water. Shockingly, about ~25% of bottled water appears to come just from tap water with or without added treatment. Additionally, bottled water is tested less frequently than tap water.

Our suggestion: considering both the financial and environmental costs of bottled water–tap water tends to be a better choice for your plants.

Other Factors Impacting Your Fruits and Veggies

Prior to selecting a certain type of water to irrigate your fruits or vegetables, it is best to gather as much information as possible. That means testing your water (whether it is city or well).

While water quality can have impacts on the overall plant health, an even more important factor is soil composition and quality. The balance of pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, and oxygen can significantly dictate the health of your plants. For more information regarding soil quality and ways to test it, you can reach us at hello@simplewater.us

Sources: 

http://lawr.ucdavis.edu/cooperative-extension/irrigation/drought-tips/water-quality-guidelines-vegetable-and-row-crops

https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/guides/organic-vegetable-production-guide/key-factors-in-vegetable-production/

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/watering/testing-water-for-plants.htm

https://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Keep-food-safety-in-mind-when-planning-vegetable-52093.php

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4515668/

https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/SP740-B.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/chlorine-toxicity-trees-and-shrubs

http://www.ncagr.gov/CYBER/kidswrld/plant/nutrient.htm

https://waterandhealth.org/safe-drinking-water/drinking-water/chlorine-in-tap-water-is-safe-to-drink/

http://albopepper.com/watering-with-tap-water.php

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