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Water is a life-sustaining and precious natural resource. Only 2.5% of the world’s water is made up of freshwater and is suitable for drinking. This relatively small amount of water is constantly on the move through the water cycle where it is made ready for us to re-use through the Earth’s natural processes.

Water is a life-sustaining and precious natural resource. Astonishingly, only 2.5% of the world’s water is made up of freshwater and suitable for drinking.

Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Freshwater Resources P.H. Gleick

We all know that access to clean and sufficient water is a vital condition for our health. In many places, rainfall is not high enough to compensate for our water usage. At the same time pollution is rapidly – sometimes irreversibly – lowering the water quality of the earth’s lakes and rivers with devastating consequences. The World Health Organisation estimates that 780 million people across the world have no access to clean water – equal to approximately 1 in 9 of us while poor sanitation and pollution mean every year, 3.4 million more lose their lives to a water-related disease.

 

But access to safe water is a fundamental human right. Be it for drinking, for basic hygiene, for cleaning and cooking and for growing our food, water is synonymous with our survival. With growing global populations, there are more people to feed, more industrial goods to supply, more water consumption used around the home and more waste to manage, putting the earth’s water cycle under immense strain.

And while water is a renewable resource, it can be readily over-exploited. Our shared responsibility is to source and use water more responsibly and more urgently than ever before.

Healthy Hydration

Our bodies need water for a number of physiological functions; to carry nutrients through the bloodstream; to regulate body temperatures and for the chemical reactions that happen in our very cells – the building blocks for all life. The average adult human body itself is made up of 60%[1] water and because the body is constantly turning water over, we need regular top-ups to stay properly hydrated.

When your body doesn’t get enough water the brain – which comprises 73% water alone[1] – triggers a physiological mechanism that makes you thirsty. If we don’t replace our bodies’ water levels, dehydration sets in causing light-headedness, fatigue, headaches and the NHS advises in extreme cases or if not remedied, Muscle weakness, dizziness, Low blood pressure, Rapid heartbeat, Delirium and unconsciousness.

Water has four physiological functions in the body:

  1. Water is a vital nutrient for cell life
  2. Water is a building block in cells, tissues and other compartments
  3. Water is a carrier: it transports nutrients to our cells and removes waste from them
  4. Water is a body temperature regulator: water has a large heat capacity which limits changes in body temperature. It allows the body to release heat when it gets too hot through sweating which on evaporation cools the skin

Daily Water Needs

Water requirements can vary from one person to the next and depend on a whole number of different factors from ambient temperature to a person’s health, fitness level, age and gender. The European Food Safety Authority however suggests that men need around 2.5 litres of water every day and women 2 litres to maintain their water balance[2]. The human body naturally loses water on a daily basis through sweating, urine and even some through breathing. But if water as a percentage of body weight drops as little as 1%[3] we become dehydrated and when left, can reduce physical and cognitive performance[4], affecting our concentration, alertness and short-term memory[5].

Do you drink enough?

Surprisingly, dehydration remains a common problem for some age groups in the UK[6] while a research programme at the University of Sheffield Medical School which was published in The Independent stated that 60% of British school children it sampled were not drinking enough water[7].

But dehydration and its symptoms can be easily avoided by simply drinking the daily recommended amount of water. When we feel thirsty, to an extent dehydration has already set. It is the brain’s way of telling us we need a drink. And although all fluids provide water, not all of them are healthy.

Water is a good choice for quenching your thirst at any time. The NHS explains that it has no calories and contains no sugars that can damage teeth[8]. The British Nutritional Foundation offers guidelines[9] on the types of fluid we should drink and along with the UK’s Food Standards Agency, water is the only one it recommends drinking “plenty of[10].

Mineral and Spring water

Natural Mineral and Spring water are 100% natural products that are pure and unaltered from what nature provides. Unlike regular tap water, mineral and spring water can contain high levels of essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium and are free of added chemicals and preservatives.

Natural Mineral water, thanks to its unique composition, can make genuine claims to having health value[11].

Natural Mineral Water

Natural Mineral water by definition has to be obtained directly from an underground deposit and must be tapped at a single and distinctive natural source with its make-up clearly stated in labelling. Mineral water is characterised by its content and proportion of natural mineral salts which guarantees its original microbiological purity and chemical composition. Purified naturally by the subterranean layers of rock it passes through, true mineral water must also be packaged close to the point of source and unlike tap water, cannot be treated at all save for the removal of unstable elements like iron and manganese.

But before it can be officially recognised as Mineral Water, surveys on the water’s hydrogeological source, physical and chemical properties must all be submitted to the local authority, usually the District Council. The government regulator Food Standards Agency is responsible for setting the standards for mineral water labelling and holds that its source has to be guaranteed protection from all risk of pollution and is free from human activity. To qualify as Natural Mineral Water, however, the water must contain an unvarying and constant amount of minerals and oligo-ele­ments, which bestow on mineral water its characteristic health benefits.

Spring Water

Certified Spring water is similarly defined by its origin which must come from a specific underground source but must meet a different standard to Natural Mineral Water.

It is essentially “untouched” and is protected by legal obligations to avoid pollution and contamination and then kept in that state until bottled. Unlike Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water can vary slightly in its mineral content and be tapped from one or more sources although must originate from either a natural spring, from the water table or from an underground reservoir known as an aqui­fer.

Spring water acquires some of its unique quali­ties, its purity and freshness, from spending days, years and even centuries, underground. Being certified means the source of the water has an identifiable location, but the rules governing Spring water can differ from country to country. In Europe, for instance, the water must be bottled at the source and where limited treatment is permitted, nothing can be added prior to bottling. In the United States however, some spring waters are allowed to be treated before bottling.

The highly industrialised, and commercialised world we live in can sometimes distract us from our innate dependence with the water that comes from our natural environment. But there are an incredible set of advantages naturally pure water offers beyond mere hydration.

 


[1] A. Guyton, (W.B. Saunders 1991) Textbook of Medical Physiology 8th ed., p. 274.
[1] H. H. Mitchell et al (Harvard 1945) The chemical composition of the adult human body and its bearing on the biochemistry of growth, p. 628 Table 1. Retrieved from http://www.jbc.org/content/158/3/625.full.pdf
[2] European Food Standards Authority, Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies: Scientific Opinion on Dietary reference values for water, EFSA Journal 2010 8(3) p. 48. Retrieved from http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/1459.pdf
[3] S. M. Kleiner, Water: An essential but overlooked nutrient, Journal of the American Dietetic Association 1999 vol. 99(2) pp. 200 – 207. Retrieved from http://www.uic-cphp.org/cms/20/resources/files/jadawater.pdf
[4] Ibid. p. 200
[5] European Food Standards Authority, op.cit. p. 48
[6] N. Campbell, “Dehydration: why is it still a problem?”, Nursing Times Jully 2007 Vol. 107(22). Retrieved from https://www.innovation.nhs.uk/dl/cv_content/32885
[7] D. Higgins, ‘Children ‘not properly hydrated’’ The Independent, 3rd May 2012. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/children-not-properly-hydrated-7710908.html
[8] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/water-drinks.aspx
[9] British Nutrition Foundation (2010), Introduction to hydration, p. 17. Retrieved from http://www.nutrition.org.uk/attachments/441_Benelam.pdf
[10] Food Standards Agency (2010), ‘Your guide to healthy eating: 8 tips for making healthier choices’, p. 19. Retrieved from  http://multimedia.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/publication/eatwell0708.pdf
[11] ©Nestlé Waters Gallimard Loisirs, 2014

 

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