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August 16, 2007

Top 6 Myths About Bottled Water

Bottled water — already a more than $10 billion industry — is the fastest-growing beverage category in the U.S. But is it good for you? Here's the pure truth.

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bottled water being opened

Bottled Water

Photo Credit: Altrendo Images/Getty Images

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MYTH #1:
BOTTLED WATER IS BETTER THAN TAP.

Not necessarily. While labels gush about bottled water that "begins as snowflakes" or flows from "deep inside lush green volcanoes," between 25 and 40 percent of bottled water comes from a less exotic source: U.S. municipal water supplies. (Bottling companies buy the water and filter it, and some add minerals.) That's not really a bad thing: The Environmental Protection Agency oversees municipal water quality, while the Food and Drug Administration monitors bottled water; in some cases, EPA codes are more stringent.

MYTH #2:
PURIFIED WATER TASTES BETTER.

The "purest" water — distilled water with all minerals and salts removed — tastes flat; it's the sodium, calcium, magnesium, and chlorides that give water its flavor. The "off" taste of tap water is the chlorine; if you refrigerate it in a container with a loose-fitting lid, the chlorine taste will be gone overnight.

MYTH #3:
BOTTLED WATER WITH VITAMINS, MINERALS, OR PROTEIN IS MORE HEALTHY THAN REGULAR WATER.

"Vitamins, color, herbs, protein, and all the other additions to water — those are a marketing ploy," says Marion Nestle, Ph.D., professor of nutrition studies at New York University. Plus, the additives are usually a scant serving of the vitamins you really need in a day, adds Amy Subar, Ph.D., a nutritionist with the National Cancer Institute. Enhanced waters usually contain sugars and artificial flavorings to sweeten the deal and can pack more calories than diet soda. When it comes to providing fluoride, tap water usually wins, though that element is increasingly being added to bottled waters.


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