Distillation removes all minerals from water, and the membrane methods of reverse osmosis and nanofiltration remove most to all minerals. This results in demineralized water which is not considered ideal drinking water. The World Health Organization has investigated the health effects of demineralized water since 1980. Experiments in humans found that demineralized water increased diuresis and the elimination of electrolytes, with decreased blood serum potassium concentration. Magnesium, calcium, and other minerals in water can help to protect against nutritional deficiency. Demineralized water may also increase the risk from toxic metals because it more readily leaches materials from piping like lead and cadmium, which is prevented by dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Low-mineral water has been implicated in specific cases of lead poisoning in infants, when lead from pipes leached at especially high rates into the water. Recommendations for magnesium have been put at a minimum of 10 mg/L with 20–30 mg/L optimum; for calcium a 20 mg/L minimum and a 40–80 mg/L optimum, and a total water hardness (adding magnesium and calcium) of 2 to 4 mmol/L. At water hardness above 5 mmol/L, higher incidence of gallstones, kidney stones, urinary stones, arthrosis, and arthropathies have been observed. Additionally, desalination processes can increase the risk of bacterial contamination.

Manufacturers of home water distillers claim the opposite—that minerals in water are the cause of many diseases, and that most beneficial minerals come from food, not water.[46][47] They quote the American Medical Association as saying "The body's need for minerals is largely met through foods, not drinking water." The WHO report agrees that "drinking water, with some rare exceptions, is not the major source of essential elements for humans" and is "not the major source of our calcium and magnesium intake", yet states that demineralized water is harmful anyway. "Additional evidence comes from animal experiments and clinical observations in several countries. Animals given zinc or magnesium dosed in their drinking water had a significantly higher concentration of these elements in the serum than animals given the same elements in much higher amounts with food and provided with low-mineral water to drink."