Get the Scoop on Low Deuterium Water: What is it, Exactly?

We’ve all heard of hard and soft water, but have you heard of “heavy” water? This is the phenomenon that occurs when your water’s hydrogen atoms have both a neutron and a proton in its nucleus, which changes the temperatures at which the water freezes and boils, among other effects.

In fact, heavy water has been shown to have adverse effects on crops, because it disturbs normal cell function, and at high concentrations, it can be lethal. In humans, it might even have an effect on your DNA and cause mutations.

So why haven’t you heard about it, and are you in any danger from heavy water?

What is deuterium?

Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen. If you haven’t been to science class recently, an isotope is “one of two or more species of atoms of a chemical element with the same atomic number and position in the periodic table and nearly identical chemical behavior but with different atomic masses and physical properties,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

In this case, that means it is the “isotope of hydrogen with a nucleus consisting of one proton and one neutron, which is double the mass of the nucleus of ordinary hydrogen (one proton).” In other words, the hydrogen atoms in your water have a proton and a neutron, instead of just one proton—and it literally makes the water heavier. For example, ice made with heavy water sinks instead of floating, like we’re all used to.

The effects of deuterium on the human body

Because deuterium is so rare (maybe one or two drops per quart of water), scientists have long overlooked its significance—but when you consider how that translates to the amount of hydrogen in the human body, it starts adding up. After all, we’re made of 70% water! What does all this deuterium mean for us?

  • DNA. Because deuterium affects the shape of molecules, it also affects enzymes, which are closely involved in DNA synthesis. This can impede DNA repair, transcription and slows replication.
  • Hydrogen bonding. Since the bonds created by deuterium are stronger than normal hydrogen bonds, they stiffen proteins and make them more difficult to break during metabolic processes. These bonds play a role in DNA—so having excess deuterium in the body can affect DNA in that way, too.
  • Proton movement. Deuterium impedes normal proton movement. While it’s not devastating in a single incidence, the sheer number of protons in a living organism (millions, if not billions, depending on size) make this a huge problem.
  • Aging. Currently, the most widely-accepted theory on aging is that it correlates with the accumulation of many tiny errors in DNA. As you can imagine, the presence of deuterium increases those errors, hastening the aging process.

What causes deuterium depletion?

Because deuterium evaporates last (remember, it’s heavier), water evaporation actually is lower in deuterium. So, if you’re living in a desert or equatorial environment, you’re more likely to be drinking water that’s high in deuterium. Of course, this depends on a few key factors, including your water source (fresh vs. ocean), the temperature and season, your altitude and distance from the coastline.

Generally, the ocean is higher in deuterium. Furthermore, water in colder climates or during winter seasons contain less deuterium, much like the climates farther away from the equator—there’s less evaporation and water vapor. The higher your altitude, the better off you’ll be: The heights of the Rocky Mountains have the very least measurable deuterium.

When you’re near a coastline, bear in mind that heavier water will precipitate (rain, fog and snow) first, so that water is typically heavier in deuterium than that farther inland. Meanwhile, the closer you are to the equator (and the warmer it gets), the more deuterium is present in the remaining water.

Be mindful of ‘heavy water’

As you can see, there are a number of concerns to be had about heavy water. While the scientific community hasn’t fully explored the phenomenon and its effects on living organisms yet, it’s clear there are enough facts and evidence to be a cause for concern.

If you’re living in any area that seems more prone to heavy water or have specific concerns about its effects on the human body, consider researching your water sources. After all, you only have one body—so you might as well treat it as well as possible while you can!

Abhishek Chauhan

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