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Is Bottled Water Better?

Bottled water is everywhere these days. But is it really worth the extra expense?

What You Want, When You Want It

Health vulnerabilities aside, experts say that sometimes, bottled water can also give you something municipal water can't -- a choice.

A case in point is fluoridation -- the process of adding the chemical fluoride to municipal water systems to help protect teeth. But not everyone agrees it's helpful or even safe -- and that's where Kay says bottled water can help everyone get what they want.

"If your tap water is fluoridated and you don't want it, you can get bottled water that is not fluoridated," says Kay. "If your water system isn't fluoridated but you want it, get fluoridated bottled water. It's all about giving consumers choices."

According to Wisconsin cardiologist William Davis, MD, at least one of those choices might even help to save your life -- if you bypass tap water that's low in magnesium in favor of a bottled mineral water that has high levels of the mineral.

"Magnesium deficiency has reached a level such that a measurable increase in sudden death has been reported in regions with the lowest water magnesium levels," says Davis, author of the book The Plaque Tracker.

Further, he says, a recent World Health Organization report cites 80 studies that have looked at the relationship between cardiovascular death and water "hardness" (measured principally by magnesium and calcium content) and concludes that a lack of magnesium is a heart disease risk factor we cannot ignore.

But just drinking bottled water – even mineral water -- is no guarantee you'll get your magnesium boost, Davis says. You have to read the label.

Your water "should contain at least 250 milligrams total dissolved solids (TDS), an indication of its mineral content," he says. Bottled mineral waters that meet or exceed minimum magnesium levels include BIOTA, Apollinaris, Evian, Gerolsteiner, and Pellegrino.

New York University nutritionist Samantha Heller, RD, notes that you can also eat magnesium-rich foods.

"Peanuts, broccoli, tofu, sweet potatoes – all are rich sources of magnesium,'' says Heller. "You don't have to get it from water."

Finally, there is one more, perhaps ultimate, reason some people choose bottled water over tap: It's a taste thing.

"When discussing the choice between bottled and tap water, you cannot ignore taste as a deciding factor," says Michael Mascha, publisher of FineWaters.com.

Like those of us who can tell Coke from Pepsi, he says, some can tell tap from bottled water -- and even detect differences among the bottled brands.

"If you can satisfy your palette and do your body good by drinking water, then why not spend the money you would spend on soft drinks on a fine bottled water?" asks Mascha.

1 Bottle at a Time

While drinking bottled water may have its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. Some have argued that the FDA is not always vigilant about enforcing regulations, sometimes allowing less-than-honest claims about a water's source and purity to slip by.

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