Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I water down my Coke. Is it OK to drink bottled water?

I buy bottled water.  I drink bottle water.  I've heard all the theories about bottled water is bad for me, bad for the environment.... I should drink tap water.

Truth be told, I have no idea what the truth is. Let's check some commonly expressed opinions.
1. Bottled water is not good value.  Tap water is cheaper.
2. It's no healthier than tap water.
3. Water is being bought up by corporations and changed to a commodity.
4. Bottled water isn't 'green'.

But wait, there's more... There are the poison plastic reasons:
1. Plastic water bottles can release hormone like chemicals when they are heated. If the bottle sits in a hot car, for example.
2. Plastic bottle in the environment last hundreds or thousands of years.
... and so on...

But what's the reality?  Is it bad to choose bottled water?

Bottled water is a health choice. First of all, let's understand that most, probably all health choices have positive and negative aspects. I'm in favour of health freedom, freedom to make personal choices. Bottled water can also be a healthy choice.

I also think it is important to look at the choice, the decision, not just the perceived BAD 'bottled water'. Let's look more closely at the choice.  Here's the choice I encounter often.

I am thirsty.  I want something to drink in my car, on my bike, on my walk, etc... There is no fountain or tap nearby.  But there is a gas station, a small store - or a large store.  I want something that I can carry with me, sip slowly, rather than gulping a lot at one time.

I can choose bottled Coca Cola, bottled Pepsi, Sprite or 7-UP.  Or I might choose bottled orange juice, or an energy drink.  Or bottled water.

What's the healthiest choice? Bottled water.

 When we check the list of objections to bottled water - they all apply to Coca Cola, to Pepsi, to bottled juices.  But all of those other choices have more negatives.  Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, and 7-UP all have high sugar content, definitely a health negative. The diet versions might actually be worse - virutally all of the sugar substitutes used in pop are poorly tested, potentially dangerous chemicals.  Juices are generally high in sugar or non-organic sugar substitutes.  Even 100 percent Orange Juice is not real Orange Juice - it is a highly processed juice to ensure a long shelf life.  As far as I know, there has been very little study of the health effects of processed OJ.  Choose milk?  Commercially available milk is highly processed, often supplemented with many other chemicals - and possibly taken from antibiotic dosed, hormone injected cows. I can buy flavoured water - but when I think about it - I find myself reading the list of ingredients -and moving over to choose bottled water again.

The healthy choice is bottled water.

You might hear comments like 'why is water the same price as Cola, it's just water?'  I, on the other hand, wonder why they don't charge MORE for bottled water.  It is the healthiest choice - maybe it should be more expensive?

Which is healthier for the environment?  All choices seem to have the same effect on the environment.  So why is it OK to buy Coke, but NOT OK to buy bottled water?

The final nail.  I have heard it said that, if I want bottled water - I should get some bottles and take tap water with me instead of buying bottled water.  It's a good suggestion some of the time - and I do it some of the time.  Maybe you've done the same?

But did you notice?  I certainly did - that tap water does not do well in plastic bottles.  What's up with that?  When I put tap water in a plastic bottle, and leave it in my car for a few days - it develops a strange smell. It goes 'skunky'. But I can open a commercial bottle of water and sip it over several days without any strange smells.  I don't know what's happening there - but it reinforces my decision.

Bottled water is a healthy choice. When I can, I drink tap water.  I'm not happy that tap water in my city, and in many cities, contains fluoride. I travel to many countries - and I sometimes drink tap water.  When I need a bottle of water - I make that choice, over other, less healthy, drinks. Sometimes, I drink Coca Cola, or Pepsi.  I like the taste, but it's too sweet for me, so I tend to water them down - with tap water of course.  

Yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: