Saturday, June 11, 2011

Water is no longer "Water"

I am not going to lie to you, I am a total water snob. I do not like certain types of bottled water, YES they taste different, and I will not drink tap water without putting flavoring in it normally but after reading a few things online about the new water flavors I will definitly be a little more cautious about what I use! By now you have probably seen the ads for Kraft Foods' new MiO Liquid Water Enhancer, a new gimmick aimed at young adults who are seeking "cool" new ways to flavor their water. This new craze has you squeezing brightly colored flavor drops into your water from a cute little travel-sized bottle, to turn your water into a fun, tasty drink. It helps people want to drink their daily amount of water so it is a good thing right? Leave it to the food and beverage industry to find a way to turn the only perfectly healthy and nautural drink - WATER - into a mixture of toxic chemicals. If you aren't already a label reader, try it out, I never was one but since I started getting curious, I have learned so much, and probably more than I ever really wanted to! After reading a few articles on the different flavoring products, I decided to look at the ones I had in the house and read the labels and I realized that these people are not crazy, the food industry really is spiking our water with some very artifical ingredients. These ingredients are in many cases even capable of wreaking havoc on your metabolism, hormones, and other natural processes that your body goes through. Great idea, clever… a science experiment you can drink.
The market has been flooded with "functional waters," the ones that are supposedly fortified with everything from vitamins and minerals to electrolytes, oxygen (yes I said oxygen), fiber, and even protein. I could get lost in my supermarket beverage aisle for hours looking at all the beverage choices—energy drinks, vitamin waters, fitness waters, and sports/electrolyte concoctions in every imaginable size, color and flavor. You can even buy water promising to "raise the consciousness of humanity" (Aquamantra). They even have bottled water fortified for your dog, called FortiFido!
Flashy labels, pretty colors, and seductive scents are not always just on products that are harmless to your health but they are incredibly alluring, especially to kids. Companies bank on their packaging to get the attention of kids and even adults. So what's in this cute little bottle of liquid "water enhancer" with the equally cute name?

The Mango Peach variety of MiO contains: Water, Malic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Citric Acid, "natural flavor," Sucralose, Acesulfame potassium, Potassium citrate, Polysorbate 60, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Potassium Sorbate (preservative).
This is a scary mixture of TWO artificial sweeteners, THREE dyes, one preservative, and propylene glycol (PG) which is a solvent that if ingested in high enough amounts can potentially result in cell mutations and skin, liver, and kidney damage. Propylene glycol is considered a moderate hazard with the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Artificial sweeteners are bad bad bad bad bad news for your health period. They can lead to impaired kidney function, depression, headaches, infertility, brain tumors, and a long list of other serious health problems and are found in way too many foods when in reality they are unnecessary food additives because there are natural, and safe, sweetener alternatives. **This is such a huge issue that there has been a book written about it called Sweet Deception.** All artificial sweeteners are risky, and MiO contains TWO of them!
The common ingrediaents used in MiO's flavor "enhancements" are:
  • Sucralose (an artificial sweetener otherwise known as Splenda) is associated with respiratory difficulties, migraines, seizures, gastrointestinal problems, heart palpitations, and weight gain, and the list of reported problems is growing by the day.
  • Acesulfame potassium (or Acesulfame-K) is another artificial sweetener that has been linked to kidney tumors.
  • Food dyes have been connected to a variety of health problems, including allergic reactions, hyperactivity, decreased IQ in children, and numerous forms of cancer—and MiO has THREE of them.
  • Polysorbate 60 is an emulsifying agent that, like PG, is rated as a moderate health concern by EWG and can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane, two carcinogenic industrial pollutants.
Now, why go to the trouble of purifying your water, only to dump a bunch of toxic chemicals right back into it what you have just filtered? This makes NO sense at all. But MiO is just one example of a large growing problem of "enhancements". Enhanced waters have become a very lucrative business as people have begun to abandon soda for what they believe are better alternatives. Beverage battles have left manufacturers clamoring to come up with products that outdo all the rest, more caffeine, more flavors, cooler bottles you name it and now we are in a water war. But even as anti-soda as I am and as much as I love my water, I had to know, are these beverages really better for you than soda? Not by a long shot.
It is not just MiO that is setting a misconceotion it's just the most recent new product and the one everyone talks about and asks if I have used it. So to be fair, let's look at the labels for a few other varieties of "enhanced" water. The following list shows the ingredients in 10 other top brands of "enhanced" water. I've highlighted the most glaring offenders in bold.
  • Propel Fitness Water Water, sucrose from corn syrup, natural lemon flavor with other natural flavors, citric acid, sodium citrate, potassium citrate,sucralose, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E acetate, niacinamide (vitamin B3), calcium disodium EDTA, calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), acesulfame potassium (ace-K), vitamin B12.
  • VitaminWaterVapor distilled, deionized, and/or reverse osmosis water, crystalline fructose, cane sugar, citric acid, vegetable juice (color), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), natural flavor, berry and fruit extracts (acai, blueberry, pomegranate and apple), magnesium lactate (electrolyte), calcium lactate (electrolyte), monopotassium phosphate (electrolyte), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), cyanocobalamin (B12)
  • Voosh - Water, crystalline fructose, citric acid, vitamin blend (ascorbic acid, grape seed extract, niacinamide, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin B12, pyridoxine HCL), fruit and vegetable juices for color, natural flavors, magnesium lactate, calcium lactate, potassium phosphate
  • Sobe Life Water Filtered water, sugar, natural flavor, citric acid, ascorbic acid (C), grape skin extract (color), sodium citrate, modified food starch, l-theanine, vitamin E acetate, calcium phosphate, gum arabic, calcium pantothenate, yerba mate extract, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), cyanocobalamin (B12)
  • Fruit2O Relax Essentials (Cranberry Raspberry)Purified Water, Contains less than 2% of Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin (Fiber), Potassium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Manganese Gluconate Dihydrate (Mineral), Potassium Chloride (Electrolyte), Potassium Citrate (Electrolyte), Potassium Pyruvate (Electrolyte), Vitamin E Succinate, Zinc Lactate Gluconate (Mineral), Calcium D-Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Vitamin B6, Selenium Chelate (Mineral), Citric Acid,Sucralose, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate
  • Aquafina (Berry Burst)Sparkling water, natural flavors, citric acid, sodium citrate, potassium benzoate, aspartameacesulfame potassium, calcium disodium EDTA
  • Dasani Plus (Pomegranate Blackberry)Filtered Water, MaltodextrinNatural FlavorsCitric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Potassium Benzoate and EDTA, Phosphoric Acid,Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E) Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6) Red 40, Blue 1, Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12)
As you can see, the majority of these "health" drinks contain a lot of dangerous chemicals that you wouldn't want to put in your body. (Three relatively safe flavored waters are listed below) Not only that, but sugar is a common ingredient. In fact, some of these drinks have nearly as much sugar as Coca Cola! 
Now I was happy to find out my water, SmartWater is on the relatively safe list ;)
  • Glaceau Smart Water - Vapor distilled water, electrolytes (calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium bicarbonate) 
  • MetroMint - Purified water and mint 
  • OWater - Water, natural lemon and lime flavor, electrolytes, and potassium sorbate (preservative)
​On the other hand we have the waters that are, well, not really water anymore.VitaminWater is not water for lack of a better description, it is a candy bar in a bottle.  Glaceau VitaminWater (made by Coca-Cola) has 33 grams of sugar per 20-ounce bottle (and 130 calories), which is only 6 grams less than a can of Coke. In fact, Coco-Cola Company was sued in 2009 for promoting VitaminWater as a healthful product. Not surprisingly, VitaminWater was rated the "Worst Healthy Drink" by Eat This, Not That. Much of the sugar in VitaminWater is the worst possible kind, crystalline fructose, which is even more damaging to your health than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Crystalline fructose is 99 percent fructose, whereas HFCS is only 55 percent fructose. Fructose is known to significantly raise your triglycerides, which in turn raises your risk of heart disease because it metabolizes into triglycerides and fat, not glucose. And if that's not bad enough, crystalline fructose may be contaminated with arsenic, lead, chloride and heavy metals. But it doesn't end there.
Many of these so-called health drinks contain as much caffeine as 6 ounces of Starbucks coffee or 12 ounces of Folgers mountain brew. If you are curious about the caffeine content of your beverage of choice, check the following databases, Overcaffeinated orEnergy Fiend. But what about the nutritional claims made by some of these companies? How accurate do you think they are? One journalistic group decided to actually have these beverage products tested. 
The Men's Journal put flavored and enhanced water claims to the test! It's pretty clear these beverages have tons of garbage in them that you don't want or need in your body. But do they really offer the nutritional benefits advertised? Would it shock you to know that they found major discrepancies between what labels claimed and what was actually present? Not me! Not anymore! 

One example is, Fruit2O Essentials (Peach Mango) contained only HALF the vitamin B5 it claimed, and NONE of the vitamin E. Its total dissolved solids (TDS) is advertised to be less than 2.5 grams but tested at 7.0 grams. According to the lab, those solids could be anything "from flavoring to dirt." In general, the vitamin-enhanced waters contain negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals, far less than if you were to take an oral supplement. In most cases, the drinks provide less than 10 percent of the recommended daily serving of any one vitamin. The sugar content negates any health benefit you could hope to gain and again, even worse than that, they still all contain artificial sweeteners.
The electrolyte waters contain insufficient amounts of electrolytes to replenish you, if you were truly dehydrated.  I give in to this one, Smartwater is my addiction :) the electrolytes make it taste better, work better, and make me in a happier mood. I swear it is true! And saying a sports drink contains "electrolytes" just sort of sounds good from a marketing point of view. Granted, it's unlikely that most people exert themselves hard enough, and for long enough, to develop dehydration and electrolyte depletion unless you are running an all-out marathon.  Men's Journal decided to test that out. They sent samples of several enhanced waters to an independent lab to investigate whether or not the beverages contain the nutrients claimed, in the amounts advertised on the label. 
The bottom line is, you are far better off relying on fresh whole foods for your nutritional needs, rather than falling for ridiculous boasts by the beverage industry. If you suspect you need extra vitamins due to a less than optimal diet, you are much better off taking a good quality vitamin/mineral supplement with a tall glass of PURE water. You'll come out ahead, in terms of both your budget and your health.
The bottled water business has become a multi-billion dollar industry. But bottled water isn't the pristine elixir you've been told it is. Studies show that 40 percent of bottled water is actually regular tap water with possibly no additional filtering treatment. The EPA standards that apply to public water supplies do NOT apply to bottled water so bottled water is less regulated than tap water and there are no restrictions preventing a source of bottled water from being located near industrial facilities or waste dumps. Because of this a recent EWG report uncovered 38 contaminants in 10 brands of plain bottled water, including DBPs, nitrate, caffeine, arsenic, Tylenol, bacteria and industrial chemicals. There is every reason to expect that, if tested, these new flavored bottled waters would be found similarly contaminated with hormone disruptors and industrial waste chemicals. Not the type of "enhancement" you thought you were paying for!

The answer to avoiding all of this is to minimize your use of plastic water bottles (and plastics in general - more than 67 million plastic water bottles are discarded each day. That's enough plastic water bottles to fill 5,500 garbage trucks each day or wrap around the Earth 149 times each year) and refrain from buying plastic-bottled waters, enhanced or otherwise. Why not make plain, pure water your beverage of choice?
It is inexpensive and easily to filter you own water at home and take it with you in reusable glass water bottles, which have a much smaller ecological impact. The very best water, however, comes from a natural spring. If you want to jazz it up with something, why not add natural ingredients that are actually GOOD for you? By avoiding the sugar, chemicals and caffeine in so-called energy drinks, you'll be able to truly rehydrate while avoiding the energy "crash" that inevitably follows.
Here are a few suggestions for spiffing up your water without sacrificing your health:
  • Add fresh lemon or lime juice (or peels) to your water, whole gingerroot, or even slices of cucumber can add a refreshing twist. If you want it sweet, you can add natural stevia, which is an herb that has no downsides for your health.
  • Try adding a drop or two of natural peppermint extract or a few crushed mint leaves from your herb garden.
  • If you're adventurous, there are mint-flavored chlorophyll drops on the market that can be added to a glass of water. Chlorophyll may help flush toxins out of your blood and improves your breath.
  • If you want an electrolyte type "sports drink," try coconut water, which is a rich natural source of potassium and electrolytes. Look for one that has no additives. Or choose a fresh, young coconut and harvest it yourself!
  • If you want the ultimate refreshing vitamin-rich drink, make up some green juice from fresh, organic veggies. Avoid adding fruits due to their high sugar content when juiced. Add a pinch of sea salt and some lemon juice for a very refreshing beverage that is heavy on nutrition and light on calories.
  • Iced green tea is also a great pick-me-up that's high in antioxidants. Although green tea contains caffeine, it also contains a natural protein called theanine, which actually mediates caffeine's adverse effects.
Here's a recipe for a refreshing homemade fruit drink that's actually good for you. You can even throw in frozen berries, instead of ice cubes.
  • Splash of bottled or fresh-squeezed organic cranberry juice
  • Splash of bottled or fresh-squeezed organic cherry juice
  • Ice to fill large glass 2/3 full
  • Approx. 1 cup sparkling water of your choice
  • Fill tall glass 2/3 full with ice.
  • Pour in splash of organic cranberry juice.
  • Pour in splash of organic cherry juice.
  • Fill glass with sparkling water.
Note: You can add whichever fruit flavors you like; so keep them on hand.

1 comment:

  1. I truly appreciate this site, continue the great work!
    Good article, thanks for this very helpfull info..


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