14 Nov Should You Buy Electrolyte-Enhanced, Nutrient-Enhanced and Alkaline Waters?
By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN. Originally published by US News & World Report
You’d think buying bottled water would be simple. But today, it’s just as confusing as choosing a type and brand of yogurt, bread or frozen food. You can now find electrolyte-enhanced, pH-balanced, nutrient-enhanced and flavored waters lining store shelves. With some of the specialty waters costing a pretty penny, should you be investing in them? Here’s the truth about three increasingly sold varieties:
Electrolytes help keep water in the bloodstream for a longer period of time and can help some people prevent dehydration. Most people can get plenty of electrolytes from a well-balanced, varied diet. However, if you are a heavy sweater or a “salty” sweater (you may find a whitish residue on your clothing), or if you work out strenuously for more than an hour, you may need more electrolytes.
But before springing for smartwater, a vapor-distilled electrolyte-enhanced water from Coca Cola, keep in mind that the electrolytes – calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium bicarbonate – in this brand, at least, are only added for taste. If you’re looking to up your electrolytes to prevent dehydration, this isn’t the right choice.
Calling water “nutrient-enhanced” is an easy way for companies to make you think their products are healthier than tap water and other bottled waters without that claim. But you can get plenty of vitamin C and B-vitamins – which are often added to these waters – from a well-balanced, healthy diet. Plus, taking in too of certain B vitamins can lead to possible toxicity. For example, too much vitamin B6 can cause irreversible nerve damage to the arms and legs. Many of the vitamin waters on the market also contain caffeine and electrolytes, making you think you’re getting a bigger bang for your buck, but that’s not the case.
In fact, when it comes to vitaminwater, for example, what you’re actually getting is a lot of sugar. The regular line contains 120 calories per bottle and about 32 grams of added sugar in the forms of fructose and cane sugar. The Energy variety also contains the herb guarana, which is plant that contains a hefty dose of caffeine and should not be taken with certain medications or if you have certain medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or an anxiety disorder. Many herbal ingredients are also not well regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Even if you opt for the calorie-free Zero line, which contains sugar alcohol and Stevia instead of added sugar, keep in mind that all of those added vitamins and minerals are still not necessary if you’re eating a well-balanced diet.
Alkaline water has been touted to help slow aging, regulate your body’s pH level, prevent chronic diseases like cancer, boost metabolism, neutralize acid in your bloodsteam and help your body absorb nutrients more effectively. Typically, water has a pH of seven, while alkaline water has a pH of about eight or nine. (The scale runs from zero to 14, with zero being most acidic, 14 being most alkaline and 7 being neutral). How does that affect the body? Some research suggests this higher pH level can help people rehydrate. For example, one 2016 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that, after a strenuous workout, people who drank alkaline water had a 6.3 percent reduced blood viscosity compared to the participants drinking regular water. Essentia is an alkaline water that has used these findings to its benefit, touting peak rehydration performance due to its trace amounts of electrolytes for taste and its ionization process to help remove bitter tasting acidic ions.
But this study only had 100 participants – too few, in my opinion, to support the health claims of an entire line of water. Evidence is also lacking for alkaline water’s long-term effects. What’s more, some alkaline water brands’ claims aren’t scientifically proven: CORE Hydration, for instance, touts itself for undergoing a “seven stage proprietary purification process that includes reverse osmosis, micron and carbon filtration, ozonation and ultra-violet exposure to remove unwanted contaminants, germs and odors up to a purity of 99.9 percent.” That all sounds very scientific, and most folks won’t understand what that means and assume the water is better for them. But the evidence is lacking that it will help your core stay healthy, as is claimed by the company.
My advice when it comes to hyped waters: Save your money and invest in a wholesome, well-balanced diet instead – and wash it down with regular water (hello, good old tap water!). If you do purchase enhanced waters, be careful, since some of them may contain harmful ingredients, which can interact with certain medications and medical conditions. What’s more, gulping on several bottles daily can potentially lead to toxicity of certain vitamins and minerals. Always ask your physician and registered dietitian if you start drinking them regularly.