Water and vitamins are two of the most essential substances available to us. They keep us alive and maintain our health by performing important functions within our bodies. Without them, deficiencies arise and our bodies react negatively. So, what if these two substances joined forces to give us a singularly awesome elixir of pure life?
This is exactly what Glacéau has tried to make. The company formed in 1996 to become, according to their Web site, a "pioneer of the enhanced water category." They have developed a massive line of bottled drinks called "Vitaminwater" that combine distilled water with vitamins, herbs and flavors.
The company's timing has been perfect. As scientists better understand the biological and chemical complexities of our bodies, the general public is becoming increasingly health conscious. Along with exercise habits and our genes, what we eat and drink largely determines the quality of our health. People are willing to try anything that advertises healthy living, and Americans spend $750 million a year on energy drinks alone. [source: NewsTarget.com]
With smart advertising, sleek bottle designs and a huge variety of flavors and styles with hip, lowercase names -- some of the choices include "endurance," "power-c" and "vital-t" -- many Americans are buying into what looks like a healthy alternative to other kinds of questionable energy drinks. Even controversial rapper 50 Cent sponsors the drinks with his own flavor, "formula 50," and other celebrities such as Kelly Clarkson and Shaquille O'Neal also promote Vitaminwater.
But is Vitaminwater really as good as it sounds? Some scientists believe that Vitaminwater and many other enhanced energy drinks don't provide all the health benefits the companies advertise. In this article, we'll discuss the functions of water and vitamins in the body. We'll also take a look at the nutrition label on a bottle of Vitaminwater -- and see if it does what it says it does.
The Function of Water
We rarely think about how important water is to life on Earth. Water covers 70 percent of the surface, and about 3 percent of it is drinkable (or potable) water. Our bodies are made up of about 60 to 70 percent water, and if you focus even further on specific organs, our need for continual hydration makes sense. The brain is about 80 percent water, blood is about 90 percent and the liver is nearly 97 percent.
Water acts as a messenger within our systems, carrying nutrients to cells and flushing waste and toxins out of our bodies. It also regulates our body temperature -- when it's too hot outside or we exercise, we sweat. As sweat evaporates, our bodies cool down to a manageable temperature.
In the same way a car needs oil to run smoothly, our bodies need water. Just like oil, however, water needs to be replaced. Our bodies lose about 250 milliliters of water every day, and doctors recommend drinking at least eight glasses every day. If we don't, we become dehydrated, leading to headaches, fatigue and lack of concentration. And, although we can survive for weeks without food, it only takes a few days before a lack of water becomes fatal.
When we eat food, a wide variety of substances, including protein, carbohydrates and fats, enters the body and provides us with energy and maintains tissue. These substances carry out their functions by chemical reactions. They wouldn't be able to do so, however, without the help of vitamins.
Found in many foods and beverages, vitamins act as catalysts by accelerating these reactions. When we experience a vitamin deficiency, our bodies can't perform these functions easily, causing us to become sick. Think of it this way -- if water is oil for the body, then vitamins are much like the spark that ignites gasoline in our cars.
Vitamins are split up into two groups and defined by the materials in which they dissolve. Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat, and excesses are stored in fatty tissues -- since they are distributed slowly throughout our bodies, we don't need to replace them daily. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. Water-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, dissolve in water and are excreted out of the body in urine -- that's why it's important to replace them on a daily basis. Water-soluble vitamins include the vitamin B-complex group and vitamin C.
Aside from foods such as fruits and vegetables, vitamins are also available in supplemental form -- in pills or liquids.
Now that we know how vitamins and water work separately, let's take a look at what's in Vitaminwater.
It's important to keep in mind that Glacéau has listed one bottle of Vitaminwater as 2.5 servings. That means you would have to drink less than half a bottle to get what the numbers on the back say. If you drink the whole bottle, though -- which will probably be the case, since the bottles are fairly small -- you have to multiply each number by 2.5. Right away the packaging appears to be misleading.
Here are the nutrition facts and ingredients from a bottle of "charge" Vitaminwater:
The big red flag here is the amount of sugar. There are 13 grams of sugar in one serving, so an entire bottle contains about 32.5 grams of sugar. For the sake of comparison, a can of Coca-Cola Classic contains about 39 grams of sugar. Because the sugar found in Vitaminwater or Coke is made from a refining (or purifying) process, it contains no nutrients or vitamins beneficial to our health. It instead acts only as a source of energy -- once anything with sugar is ingested, the sugar skips digestion by passing through the stomach wall and raising blood sugar levels. Since your body is programmed to keep its blood sugar at a certain level, the pancreas secretes insulin to balance everything out.
The increase in insulin finally tips the scales, and your body's metabolism is disrupted. Metabolism is simply the process by which molecules in your body combine to create new material or break down to take in energy and release heat. This disruption of metabolism suppresses your immune system, making it easier to get sick or develop diseases.
On top of this, Vitaminwater also contains between 100 to 125 calories. Again, a can of Coke has 140 calories. If you're an athlete or exercise regularly, you can burn off those calories easily. If you don't get any exercise and continue to drink Vitaminwater, however, you're not being quite as healthy as Glacéau advertises -- you're only adding unnecessary substances to your body and potentially gaining more weight.
There are indeed a variety of vitamins in any flavor of Vitaminwater, but it seems the vitamins' benefits are offset by the effects of sugar. So, how can you get the right kinds of nutrients? The best thing to do is to drink regular water and get vitamins from a good source of fruits and vegetables. If you can't change your diet because of medical reasons, convenience or availability, a wide range of vitamin supplements are available in pill or liquid form.
For lots more information on vitaminwater, nutrition and related topics, check out the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- BEVNET. "Glaceau VitaminWater Nutrition Facts & Ingredients." http://www.bevnet.com/reviews/glaceauvitamin/facts.asp
- NewsTarget.com. "Americans spend $750 million a year on energy drinks, but health care professionals doubt their usefulness." http://www.newstarget.com/006492.html
- PEERtrainer. "Coca-Cola Classic Calories and Nutrition Facts." http://www.peertrainer.com/DFcaloriecounterB.aspx?id=6841
- Somer, Elizabeth. "The truth behind the latest nutrition trends." MSNBC.com. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14027480/page/2/
- The Vitamins & Nutrition Center. http://www.vitamins-nutrition.org/
- Vitamins Information Center. http://www.cyber-north.com/vitamins/index.html
- White Junod, Suzanne. "Sugar: A Cautionary Tale." U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/oc/history/makinghistory/sugar.html