Turn around in any urban or semi-urban cities of India. You either find water cans or RO systems that are busy doling out water for human consumption. The common perception we have is RO is free from germs and hence it is absolutely safe. True it is, that it is largely germ free unless the water is not stored and sealed properly. Along with water it also removes many essential minerals from the water. So is it safe to drink? Let us analyse.
The process of Reverse Osmosis.
Reverse osmosis or simply RO is a process where a membrane is used to remove the impurities from the water. This membrane unfortunately does not distinguish between good and bad. So in the process of filtering out the harmful bacteria and other pathogens from the water, they also end up removing most minerals form the water. The resulting water is pure but also what is called demineralised.
Is demineralised water bad for health?
Calcium and magnesium are two essential elements found in water and many researches point to the fact that they are required by our body for complex biochemical processes. Calcium is essential for remineralizing our bones and teeth. They are required for other complex processes of the body like coagulation of blood, contraction of heart muscles, etc. Similarly Magnesium in trace quantity plays an important role in glycolysis, transporting sodium, potassium and calcium through cell membranes, protein synthesis, etc.
There are few studies that have said that the source of around 5% to 30% of the calcium and magnesium need of the body comes from the water. So actually speaking RO water that is devoid of calcium and magnesium can primarily cause deficiency of these two minerals and other trace minerals also.
Does the bad end there?
Actually it does not end there. There are few researches that claim that demineralised water leeches the minerals out of the body which is even worse. By having ground water, our 5%-30% calcium and magnesium minerals needs were met. But when we use RO water, not only do we not get this 5%-30% but also we end up losing more minerals from the body due to leeching process where the minerals are drained out of the body.
But to confuse the hell out of us, there are few other researches that point the opposite. These researches say that the demineralised RO water only leech the inorganic minerals which are anyways not absorbed by the body. It further says that these inorganic minerals sometimes are harmful to the body. So these researches are of the view that RO water is good.
Wait am confused – What to do now? Is it safe to drink RO water or not?
If we arrive at a logical conclusion, then we may better understand what to do. True that RO water removes the bacteria and other pathogens from the water. This part is something positive and cannot be denied. Assuming that RO water is only removing inorganic water, then this is also something positive. But we also understand that RO removes traces of organic minerals also which is beneficial to the body. This is a big negative factor that needs to be addressed.
So can we re-mineralize RO water and use?
Yes absolutely. That can be the best solution we can think of. There are many ways in which Re-mineralizing of RO water can be done. The simplest solution is to add 1.5 tsp of Himalayan sea salt to 20 litres water can. The pinkish Himalayan sea salt is said to contain 84 different minerals. There you go! The RO water now is re-mineralized and it is now absolutely safe to drink.