In the movie Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart’s character says he came to Casablanca for the waters. Captain Renault responds, “The waters? What waters? We”re in the desert.”
“I was misinformed,” Bogart says.
Anyone who has picked up a bottle of vitaminwater thinking that it’s a health drink has encountered a similar fabrication. Distributed by Coca-Cola, the product joins a slew of flavor-enhanced waters and “flavor drops” springing up from multi-national beverage makers who have come to the conclusion that plain old bottled water — never mind tap water — just isn’t healthy enough. For their bottom line.
The Health Halo
So is it good for you? Well, you might think so if you believed vitaminwater’s ads. One features three flavors of the product and the text “more vitamin C, more immunity, less snotty tissues, because flu shots are so last year.” (Someone should really let the CDC in on this.) But when Coca-Cola was slapped with a lawsuit recently for false advertising, they were quick to counter, “No consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”
There you have it. Need we say more?
Not So Sweet
So they’re not healthy, but really, are they that bad? Unfortunately, yes. The majority of enhanced waters are sweetened with sugar or non-caloric sweeteners such as aspartame, stevia, sucralose, and other sugar alcohols. We don’t need to warn you about the dangers of sugar, but you should know that most, if not all, non-nutritive sweeteners pose some health risks as well. Sugar alcohols, including sucralose and Splenda, often cause extreme gastrointestinal distress. (Take our word for it.)
Moreover, artificial sweeteners can elicit an insulin response. What’s wrong with that? Well, two things: first, insulin is a chemical messenger that tells your body to store fat. Second, insulin lowers your blood glucose levels. But when you haven’t consumed any actual sugar, insulin removes circulating glucose, leading to low blood sugar and, you guessed it, hunger for more.
A Palate Cleanser
Our palates are quick learners. In fact, we begin developing a taste for certain foods in the womb based on what our mothers consumed during pregnancy. Flavored water shapes our palates as well. It dulls our sensitivity to subtle tastes and causes us to expect sweet foods and drinks. For example, the natural flavors of a nectarine could never compete with the chemically induced flavor explosion created in the labs at PepsiCo.
Just Drink Water
If water bores you, make boring truly brilliant by enjoying it sparkling or with lemon. If that’s still not enough, try naturally-flavored waters, such as Hint or one of the other sparkling brands. And, if you’re worried about getting your vitamins, just pick up a good multi-vitamin and skip the newest chemical-laden marketing ploy.