ALKALINE WATER: ANOTHER SHAM DESIGNED TO TAKE YOUR MONEY

If you believe the marketing hype, alkaline water can increase your energy, boost your metabolism, hydrate you better than regular water, prevent digestive problems, neutralize acid in your bloodstream, help your body absorb nutrients more effectively, promote weight loss, prevent bone loss, and even slow aging. But is there any reality in all this?

What is Alkaline Liquid?  You may already know that the term pH actually stands for the potential for hydrogen. That’s what the P and the H mean. In chemistry, it is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous solution. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic, and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic, or alkaline. Pure water has a pH very close to 7, which is neutral. Human blood is slightly alkaline, with a nearly constant Ph value of 7.4. So if a liquid is 7.5, you can say it’s alkaline. If it’s 8.5 it’s alkaline, and so on.

Water can be “Alkalized” Alkaline water is commonly produced by an “ionizer”. In alkaline ionizers, an electrolysis process separates the water into two parts, or sides: One side is alkaline – this stream of water is used for drinking, and the pH is over 7. The other side is acidic, i.e., possesses a pH below 7, but is not dealt with here.

The body has ways of providing balance

Our bodies are wonderful machines. If there is an imbalance, we have ways to correct it. Unless you have certain conditions such as kidney or respiratory disease, your body maintains a healthy pH balance on its own. For example, if your blood becomes too acidic, you can breathe out more carbon dioxide to bring the levels down. In addition, once alkaline water hits your stomach, the gastric juices will neutralize it, providing another example of natural balancing. Skewing your body’s pH balance too far in either direction—too acidic or too alkaline — can cause problems. Your body wants something close to neutral, and it has numerous ways of achieving it. Because adequate hydration is crucial for health, we all should consume liberal amounts of plain water and avoid dehydration.  But there is actually no scientific justification for imbibing alkalinized water.

Alkaline Ionizers Don’t Make Safe Drinking Water

Most people don’t realize that the actual source of water is the critical factor when it comes to using an alkaline ionizer, which doesn’t remove contaminants. Thus one needs to be aware of what is present or absent in the water’s source.  Alkaline ionizers just don’t make good water purifiers, having no sophisticated technology and no real filtration ability, which sellers over hype. Thus alkaline ionizers are an expensive proposition (they can cost up to $7,000) for absolutely no real physical benefit..

CONCLUSIONS

Alkaline ionizers do not contribute to acid-alkaline balance in your body (or alkalizing your blood stream). The body needs no help with this job.

Alkaline ionizers are not good filters. Your drinking water could still contain contaminants that are unsafe to drink.

Alkaline ionizers are unnecessarily expensive. Why spend thousands on this process when you can have more success with pure, clean water?

No scientific studies have demonstrated any advantage to modifying water in this way.

 

 

 

 

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Shellfish: Thoughts about Nutrition and Health

Are shellfish as healthy as regular fish?

In general, fish (such as baked salmon) is a very healthy food choice, containing beneficial proteins and omega-3 fats. You’d best go light on swordfish, however, and other species known to contain mercury, but otherwise, no real limitations. But is the same true for shellfish such as lobster, shrimp, or clams?

To answer that question, the Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database contains some important advice:

Omega-3s and shellfish

If you’re eating cold-water fish like salmon because of the omega-3s, then shellfish may not be a great substitute. Lobster contains very few omega-3s, and shrimp and clams are pretty modest contributors. Calamari, blue crab, and oysters have about a fourth of the omega-3 content of salmon, or about as much as a fish like flounder, which isn’t bad at all.

What about protein?

Ounce for ounce, all shellfish are pretty much in the same neighborhood as salmon (clams are a bit on the low side). But if you are really serious about protein, eat some octopus, which contains more protein than most species of fish.

Cholesterol

Saturated fat has a bigger effect on our blood cholesterol levels than the cholesterol we eat. Still, some people are “cholesterol responders”—meaning the amount of cholesterol they eat greatly impacts their blood cholesterol levels. For them, a steady diet of shrimp (which has 166 mg of cholesterol per 3 ounces) and fried calamari (221 mg) might be a problem.

But clams, crab, mussels, and oysters tend to lower cholesterol levels a little bit, partly because they contain compounds called sterols that interfere with the absorption of cholesterol.

Calorie content

Naturally, the calorie count goes up for anything that’s breaded and fried. The good news: shellfish are low in calories.

Nutritional advantages

Shellfish contain some components not well understood. Oysters are an excellent source of zinc. Clams contain a lot of iron and vitamin B12. And crustaceans are champion suppliers of choline, an obscure nutrient that accelerates the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important in memory and muscle control.

On the other hand, stay away from jellyfish. Nutritionally they have little to offer. The dried, salted jellyfish listed in the nutrient database contains a great amount of sodium, and there’s far too much of it already.

Toxins

There are other issues with shellfish besides nutritional pros and cons. Toxins can be a problem. The reddish-brown organisms called dinoflagellates that are responsible for “red tides” make a toxin that collects in many different species, including clams, crabs, mussels, and scallops. In 2008, the FDA put out an advisory telling people not to eat tomalley, the soft green substance in lobster, because of red-tide conditions.

If you eat shellfish containing high concentrations of the red-tide toxin, you could come down with a case of paralytic shellfish poisoning. This scary-sounding disease can be deadly, but the symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning are usually mild. They include numbness and tingling sensations that may be followed by a headache, dizziness, or a strange floating sensation.

Another type of dinoflagellate produces a different toxin that causes a condition called neurotoxic shellfish poisoning. And a species of microscopic algae called Pseudo-nitzschia produces a toxin that causes a third condition, amnesic shellfish poisoning.

About 30 cases of poisoning by marine toxins (shellfish and finfish combined) are reported each year in the United States, and it’s possible that many minor cases go unreported. A death occurs, on average, every four years. Still, getting sick from toxin-laden shellfish is a rare event. You should, though, keep an eye out for health advisories about red tides and other toxin-generating “blooms” and eat accordingly.

Allergies

People also occasionally get sick from eating shellfish because of allergies. About 2% of adult Americans are believed to have food allergies, and allergies to shellfish are among the most common. The reactions vary, but they can be on the severe side. There are case reports in the medical journals of shellfish causing anaphylactic shock and even a small number of deaths.

Some people are allergic to differing types of shellfish, with considerable overlap between species. As a practical matter, people who are allergic to one type of shellfish are best advised to avoid them all.

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BOTTLED WATER: ANOTHER GREAT—AND COSTLY— MYTH!

                            

      Global bottled water sales have increased dramatically over the past several decades. The rate of consumption more than quadrupled between 1990 and 2005.  “Spring” water and “purified” tap water are currently the leading global sellers. By one estimate, approximately 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per annum in the U.S. and around the world, 200 billion bottles.

     But does this huge rush into these products make sense? Should we ignore tap water? First let’s look at safety issues. I’ll leave the taste issues up to you.

                       IS TAP WATER SAFE?

     Tap water contents can vary greatly depending upon where you live. The EPA oversees municipal water supplies, and one way to find out what’s in your water is to check your consumer confidence report, or CCR. The EPA requires utilities to provide a CCR to their customers every year. You may also find the CCR printed in your newspaper or posted on your local government website. A recent analysis of CCRs from the 13 largest U.S. cities revealed that few claimed to have no federal water-quality violations. All had some samples containing significant quantities of contaminants. In New York City, for example, some samples had lead levels several times the federal limit. A CCR might indicate safe levels of a contaminant when your water actually has experienced potentially harmful temporary spikes. Also, a CCR tells you about the water in your municipality, but not necessarily about what’s coming out of your own tap. Only testing your home supply can do that. Homeowners with a well on their property face even greater uncertainty, because such water isn’t surveyed or reported on in CCRs. For that information, call the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) for the names of state-certified testing labs or for your local health authority, which might offer low-cost or free test kits, or check out www.epa.gov/safewater/labs. Ultimately, you might find that your water is safe and can be consumed without alteration.     

      It’s important to know that, if contaminants are in your water, you can take proper defensive measures, often involving the acquisition of a filter. From a funny taste to lead contamination from aging pipes, your tap water may have picked up some unsavory additions along the way. If you are concerned, have your water tested by a lab that’s certified by the state; the EPA has an online listing of certification officers, or call your health department for recommendations. If you determine that a filter is required, claims about contaminant removal by those selling filters vary from product to product, so read the fine print. Also, consider how much water you consume vs. how much effort and disruption to your daily routine you’re willing to tolerate. Generally, the more contaminants you need to remove, the more complicated the filter, though there are trade-offs. For a comprehensive review of filters, I suggest you consult with consumer reports. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/health/index.htm. Choices range from tabletop containers, such as a carafe with a carbon filter, to devices that purify the water as it enters your home. In between are faucet-mounted, under-sink and reverse osmosis units. Look for one approved by NSF, Underwriters Laboratories or the Water Quality Association, and clean it as recommended by the manufacturer.  Some water is treated with chlorine to kill bacteria, but the taste often turns people off. The fix? Pour water into a clear glass container and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours to let the chlorine dissipate into the air. Bottled water may be your only other choice.                   

     Notwithstanding these comments, most municipal water is quite safe, and if palatable, can be taken directly from the tap. It often contains the useful minerals, magnesium and calcium. As I stated in a previous post, soft water for drinking should generally be avoided because of the addition of sodium, which is undesirable.

                  BOTTLED WATER

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees bottled water, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water. However, both use similar standards for ensuring safety.

    The FDA has good manufacturing practices specifically for bottled water. They require bottled water producers to:

  • Process, bottle, hold and transport bottled water under sanitary conditions
  • Protect water sources from bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants
  • Use quality control processes to ensure the bacteriological and chemical safety of the water
  • Sample and test both source water and the final product for contaminants

    Despite the aggressive marketing, however, bottled water is not safer than tap water. Since bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, this agency is perpetually under-funded and short-staffed, and, therefore, has a poor record of protecting consumer health and safety. FDA sends inspectors to bottling plants once every two to three years.

               Some Facts about Bottled Water

  • In 2009, almost 50 percent of all bottled water came from municipal tap water supplies.
  • According to a 2010 survey, only 3 companies provide the public with the same level of information available for tap water. This includes where the water came from, how it was treated and what the results of the water quality tests were.
  • Independent testing of bottled water conducted by the Environmental Working Group in 2008 found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand.

                                      Fluoride Facts

      Most bottled water doesn’t contain added fluoride (if it does, it will say so on the label). Kids are drinking more bottled water and less fluoridated from the tap, and some say that’s behind the recent rise in dental decay. Thus choosing bottled water without fluoride causes a lost opportunity to protect children’s’ teeth from decay.   If your tap water contains fluoride and you don’t use a filter, stick with that source for your major drinking water supply. If your family has well water without fluoride, drinking only bottled water or using a filter that removes fluoride (many do), ask your dentist about supplements for your child.

     BUT THE BOTTLED WATER STORY GETS EVEN WORSE

    Plastic bottles are made from PET, which is made from petroleum. Energy is required to manufacture the bottles and run the bottling and refrigeration machines. It also requires fuel, typically petro-diesel, to transport the bottles to the place where you buy them. These combined energy costs are the oil equivalent of about one quarter the volume of each bottle and 1000 times greater than the energy costs to pump, treat and deliver tap water. This explains why bottled water is far more expensive and wasteful than tap water.

    The production process for a bottle of water wastes the equivalent of about 3 or 4 bottles of tap water. Also, many plastic bottles are not properly sorted for recycling and end up as litter or non-biodegradable trash, bound for a landfill or waste incinerator.

                          SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

   From this information, the answer should be obvious, but here are my recommendations:

• Reject bottled water: stick with the tap. First, check out your own water supply, as indicated above. It’s usually quite safe.

• Get a canteen. If you wish to carry water, put your plain or filtered tap water in a reusable stainless steel or lined drinking container, and clean it between uses. Some come with an easy-to-tote strap..

• Think twice about the office watercooler. If it’s made of polycarbonate, it has the potential to leach BPA, a chemical that can cause neurological problems, among other things. And have you ever seen anyone actually clean the watercooler? Probably not.

• Shop smart. When you must have bottled water, look for brands that have NSF certification or belong to IBWA. Check out the lists at nsf.org or bottledwater.org, or look at the bottle itself (the NSF logo appears on labels of tested brands). If the brand you’re looking for isn’t there, contact the bottler. Ask where the water is bottled and what exactly is in it.

• Keep it cool. Don’t drink from a bottle that’s been subjected to high temperatures (sitting in your car, for example), don’t store it anywhere it will be exposed to heat or chemicals, and don’t reuse plastic bottles.

• Go with glass. Choose glass containers (Eden Springs and Voss are two popular brands) over plastic whenever possible. When you’re done, recycle!

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