Researchers at Bar-Ilan University and Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel have found a clear connection between the lack of magnesium in desalinated water and a higher death rate in cardiac patients. The results were based on 4,700 cases in the Acute Coronary Syndrome Israeli Survey, a long-term study which between 2002 and 2013 gathered detailed data about heart patients in Israeli hospitals.
Numerous studies have shown that magnesium is helpful for heart patients, and that even patients with significant cardiac problems (such as those who suffered heart attacks) benefit from taking magnesium supplements. Desalinated water – in which almost all minerals, including magnesium, are removed – began flowing through Israeli taps in 2006, in limited areas of the country (today, 75% of Israel’s water comes from desalinated sources).
The researchers looked at the death rates among cardiac patients between 2002 and 2006, and the death rates between 2008 and 2013. Among those patients, the researchers checked the rates between those who lived in and/or were treated at hospitals where the water was desalinated, and areas with “natural” water. The results showed that there was a “strong correlation” between higher death rates and desalinated water. A deeper examination of 211 patients in the desalinated areas showed that they had much lower levels of magnesium than patients (many of whom had recovered) in non-desalination areas.
As a correlative study, the Bar-Ilan/Tel Hashomer research did not break any new ground; indeed, even Israel’s Health Ministry is aware of the problem, and in 2010, it predicted that the annual death toll among cardiac patients in desalinated areas due to a lack of magnesium would be about 250 annually.
Since 2010, however, the amount of desalinated water in use in Israel has doubled. The Health Ministry already in 2010 recommended adding magnesium to desalinated water, but the Finance Ministry balked, as the program would have cost the state treasury NIS 350 million ($93 million) annually.
The researchers are hoping that the new study will swing attention back to the problem, and create public pressure on officials to add magnesium and other essential minerals in treated water.