What’s Better: Tap, Filtered or Bottled Water?

Once and for all, we settle the great water debate.

By: Gabby Lester-Coll
Photography: Jake Rosenberg

We’re all trying to drink more water. It’s good for the skin, metabolism, digestion, and muscle recovery, amongst other things, so keep refilling that pretty little glass water bottle of yours. But exactly what type of water should we be filling said water bottle with? Aren’t there harmful chemicals like mercury, runoff from pesticides, and the highly debated fluoride in tap water? Do we even know what’s streaming out of the tap? Isn’t filtered water void of essential minerals like sodium and electrolytes? Don’t fancy $4 bottled waters that are rich in minerals and alkalizing for the body kill the environment and leech plastic into our sacred bodies? (Yes, actually, according to The Water Project, “Bottles used to package water take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade and if incinerated, they produce toxic fumes. It is estimated that over 80% of all single-use water bottles used in the U.S. simply become litter.”) Yikes. 

I sat down with Dr. Robin Berzin, functional medical doctor and founder of Parsley Health, to help set the record straight on this great water debate.

 

Let’s start with plain old filtered water:

 

Is filtered water void of essential minerals our bodies need?

Dr. B: “Not quite. Most water filters are designed to reduce chlorine and its byproducts along with metals like mercury, and not minerals. That said, even if these filters do reduce minerals like calcium and magnesium, you are not likely to become deficient—you can get plenty of these minerals from foods.” 

 

What should we be looking out for in filters?

Dr. B: “Carbon-based, point-of-use tap water filters can provide a short-term benefit through the removal of chlorine, halogenated disinfection by-products (DBPs), heavy metals like lead and mercury, pesticides, and infectious microbes like giardia cysts. But these filters also pose a risk of increasing bacterial counts in the tap water due to biofilm growth on the filter matrix, meaning filter replacement is important.”

 

What about when it comes to filtered water at home versus bottled water?

Dr. B: “Drinking filtered water instead of bottled water is good for our environment because of the harmful nature of plastic bottles* (made from petroleum products), and the energy used to make and transport these bottles.” (Ed note: Most bottled waters are just as treated with chemicals like chlorine as tap water.)

 

And then there’s tap:

 

What’s the verdict on tap water?

Dr. B: “Most tap water sources, which are monitored by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), contain the optimal concentration of fluoride that is recommended to prevent tooth decay. This means that using fluoridated toothpaste is really unnecessary if you drink tap water. Fluoride has been shown to prevent tooth demineralization and decay. So if you get no source of fluoridated water, a fluoride-based toothpaste may be helpful, even for adults.”

 

And are there any cons to drinking tap water?

Dr. B: “Yes. The infrastructure of drinking water distribution systems may play a role in how sanitary or safe the drinking water is. Factors could include retention times of water (Ed note: meaning the time it takes for water to go from the treatment plant to you), promotion of microbial regrown and disinfection byproduct formation. In addition, tap water is disinfected with chlorine, which is a good thing for infection risk, but chlorine can combine with organic compounds in water to form THMs (Trihalomethanes), which have been linked to bladder cancer and even breast cancer. Tap water has also been shown to be increasingly contaminated by pharmaceutical drugs from anxiety medications to antihypertensives.”

 

Okay, so, in your opinion, what’s the best option out there? What type of water should we drink?

Dr. B: “Electrolyzed hydrogen-rich water (H-water) has been proven to act as an antibiotic material, as well as an effective antioxidant. Filtered tap water, using a well-regarded pitcher filter like Pur or Berkey, or an under-sink filter like the Filtrete system, would be my bet.”

*Orders Pur on Amazon Prime, sips on recently acquired Dr. Perricone Hydrogen Water, and never looks back.*

[Editor’s Note: As ever, we are not doctors or medical know-it-alls. And everybody is different, so make sure to check with a doctor before trying anything new.]

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