The Impact of Desalinated Water on Health: Magnesium Deficiency and Increased Mortality - Water Wisdom - Mayu Water Blog

The Impact of Desalinated Water on Health: Magnesium Deficiency and Increased Mortality

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By Staff Writer
Davor Štefanović - Editor for Mayu Water
Edited by Davor Štefanović

Updated February 1, 2024.

An aerial view of a water treatment facility for water desalination

Water is a vital resource that sustains life, and ensuring its quality is essential for human well-being. Desalination, or reverse osmosis, the process of removing salt and impurities from seawater, has gained significant traction in recent years as a solution to address water scarcity in arid regions.

However, a joint study conducted by Sheba Medical Center and Bar Ilan University in Israel, a country that leads the world with delineated water per capita, has shed light on a concerning correlation between the consumption of desalinated water and increased mortality rates from myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack.

We'll examine the preliminary findings of the study and explore the potential connection between desalinated water and magnesium deficiency, highlighting the implications for public health and the ecosystem.

Understanding the Role of Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in various physiological processes within the human body. It is involved in the activity of over 300 enzymes and is necessary for proper metabolic functioning. Research has linked magnesium deficiency to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, diabetes, and potentially colon cancer. Epidemiological studies have shown that areas with magnesium-deficient drinking water and diets experience a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and overall mortality rates.

The Study's Findings

The study focused on 4,700 patients in Israel who had experienced heart attacks, strokes, angina, or death. The patients were divided into two groups based on their residential areas: those with desalinated drinking water and those without. The study population was further categorized into two periods—before and after 2006, which marked the start of desalination of drinking water in Israel.

The results revealed that in the earlier period from 2002 to 2006, there was no significant difference in mortality rates between areas with desalination and those without. However, from 2008 to 2013, when desalinated drinking water became more prevalent, a notable increase in mortality rates was observed among patients living in areas with desalinated water.

Furthermore, an analysis of 211 patients with acute myocardial infarction revealed significantly lower levels of magnesium in the blood of individuals residing in areas with desalinated water.

Public Health and Ecological Concerns

Subsequently, the Israeli Ministry of Health conducted an assessment that revealed a potential risk of excess mortality of 250 people per year when adding 250 million cubic meters of desalinated water annually to the distribution system.

It's worth noting that previous surveys have already indicated magnesium consumption in Israel and other countries is falling significantly below recommended levels. Recently, the advisory committee to the American Ministries of Health and Agriculture highlighted magnesium deficiency in American food, which could lead to increased morbidity, and called for increased magnesium consumption in diets.

While adding magnesium to desalinated water has been proposed as a solution, opposition from the Ministry of Finance and the Water Authority, largely due to financial implications and potential ecological consequences, has hindered its implementation.

Magnesium deficiency in drinking water not only affects human health but also impacts plant and animal life, with significant ecological ramifications. Insufficient magnesium in agricultural water can harm crop quality and lead to reduced magnesium content in fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Hidden Danger

The preliminary findings of the joint study conducted by Sheba Medical Center and Bar Ilan University shed light on the potential health risks associated with consuming desalinated water.

The observed increase in mortality rates from myocardial infarction in areas with desalinated water raises concerns about the impact of magnesium deficiency. As further research is needed to establish a definitive causal relationship, it's crucial for authorities and stakeholders to carefully consider the potential health implications of desalinated water, explore viable solutions to address magnesium deficiency, and improve the safety of drinking water.

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