Study Links Desalination to Heart Disease


The desalination technology which has largely enabled Israel to escape the ravages of several consecutive years of drought may be putting people at greater risk for heart disease, according to new research.

A study of 178,000 Israelis over 6 years found that those who were drinking desalinated water were more at risk of heart disease than those drinking natural water.

The findings, published this week in the Environmental Research journal, were based on data compiled from subscribers to Clalit Health Services, the largest healthcare provider in Israel. Half drank desalanited, half drank water from natural reservoirs.

A 6-10 percent increase in the incidence of heart disease was observed in the desalinated group, according to a Hadashot report.

Prof. Yona Amitai of Bar-Ilan University, one of the project leaders, confirmed that the number is statistically significant. After ruling out other possible causes, he said the research team concluded that a failure to add magnesium to the desalinated water was to blame.

“Magnesium plays a vital role in the human body,” he said, which is “necessary and important for [its] proper operation.”

The proposal to add magnesium has been discussed before and adopted despite the considerable cost entailed, at least in principle, by the Israel Water Authority and the Health Ministry. However, to date, it hasn’t been done.

The Water Authority is unenthusiastic but willing to go along, if the Health Ministry will make a start:

“The water in Israel, including the desalinated water, is a very good quality, and meets the most stringent requirements of the drinking water regulations,” it said in a statement.

“The Health Ministry is authorized to decide if magnesium should be added to the diet of Israeli citizens.”

The Health Ministry, for its part, blamed the dragging of feet at the Water Authority.

“The Health Ministry is familiar with the data and supports the immediate addition of magnesium to the water in order to ensure the health of the public,” the ministry said. “To our regret, the Water Authority is deliberately raising difficulties to prevent the addition.”

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