“Water- a bequest of nature” bases all innovations in curbing water crisis to make our blue planet green and sustainable.
Earlier, water used to be of just one type- Plain and palatable.
It didn’t take much long for the corporate moguls to come up with new versions of H2O. Water, in its most innate form is a simple chemical molecule of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. We drink water to slake our thirst, or else one can have a glass of soda or juice for taste and tang.
Anything beyond hydrogen and oxygen in water amounts to an impurity. The idea of infusing regular water with vitamins, carbonic acid or an alkaline pH can have many more health benefits than plain H2O, sends up some real red flags! Here’s what some of the self-proclaimed “connoisseurs” of this field have to say-
DASANI- “Breakout the bubbles with the crisp, invigorating taste of DASANI sparkling”
Fiji water- “Earth’s finest water: Bottled at the source, untouched by man.”
GLACEAU vitaminwater- “Not your ordinary bottled water”, “Hydration for every occasion” “Vitamin + water = all you need”
Oxygenizer, “The new way of breathing” - “Oxygenizer oxygenated drinking water is enriched with 36 times more oxygen. It is naturally enriching your life while quenching thirst.”
Well, an avalanche of words like this confuses the readers about the product that these brands are advertising. Most of the shoppers string along, unaware of the ingredients that they are consuming in these souped-up waters. Drilling down into what's inside the bottle brings up a lot of concerns. Before diving deeper into the bogus world of these pseudo-waters, let us hark back to nuts and bolts- metabolism of water in our body.
Water’s journey through human body
Water and other fluids follow similar journey as food particles, the only difference is that food is digested while water is absorbed in the body. The time taken for absorption depends on how much one has eaten. Water when supped on an empty stomach, can take as fast as five minutes to get absorbed. Contrariwise, if you drink while eating it may take up to 120 minutes for the same as the stomach digests the food first! Most water absorption takes place after it passes through the stomach into the small intestine. The small intestine efficiently absorbs some amount of water into the cell membranes and the rest is assimilated in the blood stream. It then travels to cells across the body through the blood stream, providing adequate hydration for metabolic functions. Once this is done, the excess is removed through the kidney via urine, skin via sweat and large intestine, in the form of fecal matter.
Scientifically, our body is unable to absorb most of the minerals present in water. The human anatomy facilitates absorption of minerals from organic sources smoothly. Inorganic sources of minerals such as water are insufficient because of less absorption. But don’t worry, we have healthy, mineral rich food for that.
The fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K, and electrolytes added to water pass too quickly through the digestive system and cannot be absorbed. Bad news for those of you purchasing vitamin or mineral rich water, you are being fooled big time! So, before you get duped by the marketing claims and shell out the money for all the rage, take a few minutes to evaluate these so-called different choices of water.
What is ‘enhanced’ water?
Enhanced water or functional beverages are marketed as water laced with vitamins, minerals, artificial flavors, sweeteners, antioxidants, even extra hydrogen and oxygen! Some brands claim their water will boost your energy, give mental clarity and even de-escalate chronic diseases like Cancer! Let’s dig deeper to know more about these pseudo-waters.
Sparkling water includes any bottled, canned, or unbottled water with carbonation. For someone who is not a big fan of plain water can drink this to upsurge their water intake. However, consuming carbonated drinks may cause bloating or gas for people with sensitive stomach. Although drinking modest amounts of it wouldn’t impinge upon the health, scientists do say that it may encourage tooth decay because of carbonic acid.
The latest fad is alkaline water, asserting that its maneuvered pH has health benefits! Alkaline water has a higher pH level than regular water. Some say that it can decelerate the ageing process, uphold the pH level of stomach, benefit people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and even prevent chronic diseases like cancer! While some believe that it’s another marketing gimmick to mint money. What do you think, can water with high pH levels beat modern medicine?
While people have been hyping the benefits of this pseudo-water, doctors are stressing on the fact that one cannot change the pH level of body by drinking alkaline water. Our body regulates its pH (of blood) in a very narrow range because all our enzymes are designed to work at a pH of 7.4. If it varies too much, we simply wouldn’t survive! Moreover, an overall excess of alkalinity in the body may cause gastrointestinal issues and skin irritations
One of the famous ringleaders of this is GLACEAU Vitaminwater, owned by Coca-Cola. As the name suggests, vitamin water contains, well, vitamins like vitamin C, B3, B6, B12 and B5. Not just this, when you check the ingredients, you’ll find that it has vapor distilled, deionized and/or reverse osmosis water, crystalline fructose, cane sugar, citric acid, ascorbic acid, vegetable juice, natural flavor, gum acacia, lutein and a handful of electrolytes. Does this still sound like vitamin water to you?
Did you know that in 2009, a class action lawsuit was filed against Coca-Cola to prohibit its claims of drinks containing 32 grams of sugar, plummeting the risk of eye disease, promoting healthy joints and evoking a sense of tranquility. Well, according to them, “vitamin + water= what you need”, while what they provide is liquid sugar in the name of vitamin water. In order to enhance the taste, vitamin water is sweetened with crystalline fructose and sucrose, which is nothing but disaccharide sugar!
Companies advertising mineral water claim to have extracted it from natural spring, pure and rich in minerals. It gets its distinction through natural processes with zero human intervention and no added chemical elements. With the growing pollution, even mineral water can succumb to groundwater contaminants. The question is how do they filter these toxins out if the water is untouched?
Mineral water which is believed to be extracted from natural springs is unfortunately nothing but regular water with added minerals. Extra minerals won’t cause any harm to the body, just that most of these minerals are not even absorbed by our body as water is an inorganic substance. While they may enter the circulation system, they cannot be used in the physiological process of building the human cell. So, other than forking out your money, there’s no other drawback of mineral water!
Oxygenated water or super-oxygenated water is simply water that has oxygen added to it. It’s no joke, it’s true. This supposedly boosts your stamina, improves athletic performance and provides mental clarity.
Well, all of this makes zero sense because solubility of oxygen in water is very low. Even if it does contain “extra oxygen”, a single breath of air contains more than a single bottle of oxygenated water. And most importantly, our stomach doesn’t need oxygen. It is absorbed into our blood through lungs, not our digestive tract. We cannot bypass the lungs and put more oxygen in our bloodstream. Adding a little more won’t improve health or performance!!
Unlike mineral water, distilled water has no minerals. It is produced by boiling the water and then condensing the steam back into liquid which removes most of the minerals and impurities in it. Our body nonetheless cannot absorb minerals from water being an inorganic substance, so distilled water has no detrimental effects on the body. Since it doesn’t have any minerals, distilled water has the tendency to pull them from whatever it touches to maintain a balance, although the amount is very small. Other than this, due to lack of minerals, it might be flat and of insipid taste.
Hydrogen water is simply water with extra hydrogen molecules added to it. The theory is that adding extra molecules of hydrogen which is a tasteless odorless gas boosts energy, decreases inflammation and slows down the ageing process. Certain companies claim that extra added hydrogen molecules are more ‘accessible’ to our body to reduce inflammation. But there isn’t enough evidence to back these flimsy rationales claimed by the plutocrats.
Who thought, riding the wellness wave wouldn’t be a piece of cake? Well, don’t slacken your seat belts, there’s more to decoding these so-called health trends. Nestle waters, a bigshot-company has come up with a “portfolio of 51 unique water brands”. Nestle’s ‘expert’ tasters have devised a “taste map of their 140 waters”, breaking them down into six categories- Light & Pure, Rich & Revitalizing, Bold & Distinctive, Soft & Elegant, Lively & Thirst quenching and Vivacious & Energizing. They have advertised these waters as “light as silk epitomizing Tuscan mellowness, with velvety taste, leave mineral lightness in mouth, an oil texture, with gustatory qualities, have lively, long lived bubbles which feel creamy in mouth and wild & peppery.” For a second, I thought they were talking about chocolate flavored milkshake with whipped cream and not water.
DASSANI Sparkling Water has some exciting flavors with refreshingly “crisp” taste. Can water really be crunchy and munchy!?!? DASSANI sparkling waters have around 14 delicious flavors which claim to have no added sugar, while its ingredients include sucrose which is nothing but disaccharide sugar.
This leads us to another drinking water product under the same parent company (Coca-Cola) as DASSANI, GLACEAU vitaminwater. Not long ago, Coca-Cola company was sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims” on vitaminwater line of beverages. While on one hand it claims to be healthy, on the other hand it is loaded with added sugar- particularly crystalline fructose. One bottle of vitaminwater contains 30 grams of crystalline fructose which makes it similar to any other soft drink!
The quirkiest of them all is Oxygenizer’s oxygenated water which claims to have 36 times more oxygen. Well, I think we don’t need lungs anymore. One can simply drink oxygenated water for better supply of oxygen in body!
The functional beverage market has been booming since several years now. There is an unquenchable thirst from the consumers’ side for new and unique strategies to boost up immunity and avoid diseases. They don’t mind spending extra bucks for these flimflams. And because they fork out money on these enhanced waters, they feel like they are getting benefits from drinking it. Belief and subsequent placebo effect are imperative to successful marketing. Taking the example of luxury brands. What according to you is the perception of luxury? The facet that makes a brand luxurious is infested in our minds on continual basis through message reinforcement and visual imagery. Being expensive is the first criterion for qualifying as a luxury and so people inevitably believe the quality of the product. Same is in the case with ‘enhanced’ water. Charging people extra for something that looks and tastes just like regular water is not only audacious but immoral too.
Water is the essence of life. While it may seem like these functional beverages are helpful to keep your body healthy, what is more important is to stay hydrated. Scientists have found that regular water works just fine for hydration. Only during times of extreme dehydration or high activity level, one may require added vitamins and minerals or electrolytes but that should be injected as intravenous fluids. For those of you consuming very little amounts of water every day or don’t like its taste (yes, those people exist), can go for the functional beverages.
With growing social media influence, things are moving from fringe to global trend at a much faster rate than before. People are enticed by the latest fads and don’t want to be left behind in that race. Advertising campaigns are about malarkey and people believe the visual depictions. There is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support the claims made about enhanced water. The promotion of ‘enhanced water’ by supposed ‘experts’ and celebrities over regular water, can sometimes blur the line between actual information and pseudo-science.
Just Drink Water. Don’t Fancy it. And remember, Simple is Good !
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