DEAR DR. BLONZ: I keep seeing a video ad that says we should not ever drink spring water, carbonated water or even purified water, because it is all less effective than the alkalized water made fresh by their particular machine. They make health claims from drinking their water, and do a series of demonstrations using a color indicator to make the point that their alkaline water is better. I'm not sure about this, and was hoping for your opinion. -- R.D., via email
DEAR R.D.: Someone is trying to sell you a machine. I would take a pass.
Depending on where it's from, spring water tends to be alkaline due to the minerals naturally present at the source. Purified water is just water, usually filtered, with some brands adding minerals for taste. Waters marketed as being alkaline can come from springs where that is their natural state, or from companies adding mineral salts that raise the pH and make the water more alkaline. Machines designed to make water alkaline do this using electricity to ionize the water molecules.
They can use all the acid-alkaline indicators they want, but settle for nothing less than objective clinical evidence -- that is, research using people, not water in a glass -- to support any health claims for this machine-produced alkaline water. Demand that evidence in writing, such as in the product literature on their website; things said in videos tend to be more ephemeral.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Your article last month on the risk of eating grilled meats was very entertaining and informative. Using a classic reference from 1979, you referred to the one-in-a-million riskiness of various activities, one of which was having one chest X-ray in a good hospital.
I want to point out that the radiation dose required for an X-ray has dropped considerably with the advent of digital receptors. Computed radiography allows for computer post-processing of an image and, therefore, more leeway in image production that wasn't developed until the 1980s. -- C.R., via email
DEAR C.R.: I appreciate that correction, and the additional information. However, improvements in technology have come with an increased reliance on the use of diagnostic imaging.
Techniques such as magnetic resonance imagery and ultrasound use no radiation whatsoever. At the same time, there is an increased use of computer tomography scans that represent the most significant source of radiation, with whole-body scans being marketed directly to the public. (More on CT and other scans at b.link/zdhwsw.)
These are all excellent tools to improve health care, but should always be used conservatively.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have read about peanuts and aflatoxin, but I would like to know if almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans and other foods can also be affected by this mold. -- S.T., Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
DEAR S.T.: Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Peanuts and oilseeds, such as cottonseed, tend to be the most at risk, but all tree nuts are susceptible. It does not stop there, as the mold that produces aflatoxin can also be found in corn and legumes. There is even concern about meat and dairy products from animals fed aflatoxin-contaminated feed.
Methods of detection have improved, along with our understanding of the conditions that give rise to the mold's formation. For more on aflatoxin, check out these articles from the U.S. National Library of Medicine (b.link/vky424) and the National Cancer Institute (b.link/vatrn9).
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.