What exactly is distilled water? It sounds pure and clean at any rate, but how does it differ from regular water? Is it better to drink than tap water?
When any liquid is distilled, be it alcohol, perfume or water, it is boiled, evaporated and then made liquid again by the vapour being collected. The main point of the exercise is to leave behind any impurities in the evaporation process, so that the remaining water is pure and clean.
When it Works…
For the purpose of chemistry, laboratory research, perfume making, some food production processes and in a medical environment; distilled water is irreplaceably useful. In those areas, its purity is rightly valued; indeed, sometimes essential.
It is also the case that potentially harmful microbes are removed during distillation, but that’s not all. The process is quite an aggressive one, and along with any harmful elements, precious and essential minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, are also lost
…When it Doesn’t
It’s impossible to overestimate how vital minerals are to our overall wellbeing. If our mineral health is compromised then we put ourselves at risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, as well as many other serious health problems.
The World Health Organization (WHO) takes the issue of demineralized water very seriously. Low-mineral, or mineral-free water can mean water that has been distilled, forced through a system of membrane filtration (commonly known as reverse osmosis water), or water that has been treated by electrodialysis.
The WHO published a report on its website that looks at the various ways that demineralized water can have an adverse impact on our health. Far from hailing distilled water as a boon in supporting health with its pure credentials; the WHO counsel against drinking any form of demineralized water long term, as to do so creates it’s own health problems.
What About Minerals from Food?
Fans of distilled water claim that minerals in drinking water are unnecessary if your diet is mineral-rich in the first place. It is probably optimistic, to say the least, to assume that everyone is able to eat a diet that provides them with a sufficient range of available minerals to keep them in peak health. Drinking enough water that also delivers essential minerals is vital.
Consuming distilled water instead of water containing minerals means that you are potentially depleting your body of essential amounts of sodium, potassium and magnesium.
There is a lingering belief in some quarters, from a brief faddish heyday with distilled water some years ago; that drinking it is actively good for your health. Many medical experts acknowledge the fact that at base level, distilled water is hydrating and also accept its purity, but equally know that minerals, absent from distilled water, are so vital for health to thrive.
Stepping away from the points of view of doctors and the medical establishment for a moment, the widespread opinion from those who have tried distilled water as a drink is that it tastes somehow flat. Dead. If you can imagine the most beautifully cooked meal in front of you; your very favorite dish, looking spectacularly delicious; but there’s vital something missing. You can’t smell a thing.
You can see it, it looks wonderful, but without being able to smell it, that wonderful aroma of a fabulous meal, the whole tableau fails.
It is a little like this with distilled water; it looks right, but it doesn’t taste right. That makes sense; it’s been stripped of the good things that makes water a joy to drink, and what’s left is purely functional in the short term, but with little pleasure.
Distilled Water and Lead Poisoning
But really, that aspect fades to insignificance compared to the dangers associated with drinking it. It’s not only the lack of minerals; distilled water can be corrosive when it comes into contact with metals, for example. Inherently unstable, low-mineral water held in water tanks with metal fittings or solder might well become contaminated, sometimes with catastrophic results.
“Among eight outbreaks of chemical poisoning from drinking water reported in the USA in 1993-1994, there were three cases of lead poisoning in infants who had blood-lead levels of 15 μg/dL, 37 μg/dL, and 42 μg/dL. The level of concern is 10 μg/dL.
For all three cases, lead had leached from brass fittings and lead-soldered seams in drinking water storage tanks. The three water systems used low mineral drinking water that had intensified the leaching process”
National Institute of Public Health Czech Republic
In Emergencies Only?
The process of distillation is a beneficial one, and distilled water has many extremely valuable uses. However, low-mineral water should not be consumed as the main source of drinking water over a significant period of time.
Following the assessment of global data, in 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that demineralized water “has a definite adverse influence on the animal and human organism.”