Is Vitaminwater really as healthy as we’ve been told? [Beware]

vitaminwaterVitaminwater is a drink marketed as healthy when it’s really just another sugar-sweetened beverage devoid of any real nutritional value.

Added sugar may be the most harmful aspect of the modern diet. While Vitaminwater also has a zero-calorie product made with alternative sweeteners, the vitamins and minerals touted as a boon to your health aren’t the ones people usually need to supplement.

Produced and marketed by a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola company, Vitaminwater comes in several varieties with catchy names and added coloring to make it bright and attractive.

The appealing names are obviously designed to make consumers believe they’re getting something special: “Endurance,” “Defense,” “Refresh,” “Essential,” “Focus.”

If you’re buying the calorie-free version of Vitaminwater, information about the harmful effects of including sugar-sweetened drinks won’t be applicable, but read on to find out what you’re getting when you include this product in your diet.

Liquid Sugar is a Bad Idea

A 20-ounce bottle of Vitaminwater runs at 120 calories from 32 grams of sugar; while this is about half what you’d get from drinking a regular Coke, it’s the worst kind of sugar.

American products are sweetened with cane sugar and crystalline fructose; in other parts of the world, only cane sugar is used. This is just another word for sugar, and is no better for you than any other kind of sugar.

At more than 98% fructose, the crystalline fructose you get from a bottle of Vitaminwater matches what’s found in a regular Coke. Cane sugar is about half fructose and half glucose.

Fructose is even more harmful to your health than glucose. (1, 2)

The reason for this is significant amounts of fructose in the diet can only be metabolized by the liver, whereas glucose can be absorbed from the blood stream and used by any cell in the body to meet energy needs.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Can Lead to Weight Gain

Calories from drinks are just as important when it comes to weight control as calories from the foods you eat.

Sugary beverages can have more impact on your weight than food.

The brain doesn’t register liquid calories in the same way as calories from solid foods, so there’s no automatic compensation. This means you don’t adjust the amount you eat to allow for liquid calories, and usually end up eating the same amount of food you would if you didn’t have the sweet drink.

Adding sugar-sweetened drinks on top of your normal diet is likely to cause weight gain over time, increasing your risk of becoming obese, as well as making it more likely you will develop chronic diseases. (3, 4, 5)

Sugary drink consumption rates as one of the strongest risk factors for obesity, and can be even chancier for children. Some studies suggest that for each daily serving of sugar-sweetened drinks, risk factors for obesity may climb as much as 60%. (6, 7)

Vitaminwater is no different than any other sugary drink in this respect; the added vitamins and minerals won’t alter the risk factors for obesity.

Sugary Drinks Increase the Risk of Developing Chronic Diseases

A diet heavy on sweets has been fingered as the leading driver of the modern obesity epidemic, as well as chronic diseases related to obesity. (8)

Health experts recommend keeping added sugar in the diet to a maximum of 10%, and advise shooting for 5% or less.

If you’re eating about 2500 calories daily, 10% would be about 62 grams of sugar.

Depending on whether you’re looking at the higher or lower number, those 32 grams of sugar in a bottle of Vitaminwater would land you at somewhere between 50% and 100% of the recommended sugar intake.

Here’s a list of the disorders and diseases strongly associated with added sugar in the diet: (9, 10, 11, 12, 13)

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Tooth decay

Fructose is the main culprit when it comes to the harmful effects of added sugar; as mentioned above, the process of metabolizing any appreciable amounts of fructose can burden the liver.

Take a look at these other health issues that can result from fructose in the diet: (14, 15, 16, 17)

  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Raised levels of blood triglycerides
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Build-up of fatty tissues around the organs
  • Higher risk of developing fatty liver disease

Every one of these health problems is associated with a greater risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (18, 19)

There’s no need to avoid eating fruit because it contains fructose. The fiber and water in fruit make it a low energy density food, and it would be difficult to eat enough fruit to get the amount of fructose considered potentially damaging.

Most People Get Plenty of the Vitamins and Minerals Added to Vitaminwater

The micro-nutrients included in Vitaminwater differ slightly between varieties.

All of them contain vitamin C and provide between 50% and 150% of the RDI; B vitamins are also in all types, delivering RDIs at 50% to 120%.

Some flavors contain small quantities of vitamins A and E, along with these minerals: magnesium, potassium, manganese, chromium and zinc.

Both vitamin B and vitamin C are water-soluble vitamins that are abundantly available in most people’s diets. (20, 21)

There’s no reason to drink a sugary beverage to get extra amounts of these nutrients, because the body can’t store them; they are excreted in urine.

Additionally, supplementation of micro-nutrients like these doesn’t appear to have the same health benefits as getting them from food. (22)

In fact, some studies indicate that supplementing excessive amounts of certain vitamins, including A and E, has been linked with a higher risk of premature death. (23, 24)

While the amount of these vitamins in Vitaminwater doesn’t constitute large doses, adding it on top of what you’re getting from foods is absolutely not necessary.

Don’t Fall For Deceptive Marketing

Coca Cola has already been required to legally address unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of Vitaminwater.

It’s important to read labels and know what’s in the food and beverages you’re buying; public health is of minimal concern to most corporations when compared with profits.

Summary: Vitaminwater is another sugary beverage that can cause health problems and may increase your risk of developing serious chronic diseases; get your vitamins and minerals from whole, nutritious foods.

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673878/
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23594708
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16895873
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19248858
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23763695
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19087367
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11229668
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23321486
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15328324
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14522753
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24493081
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24669994
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21220734
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24808490
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20086073
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23482247
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23493538
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15723702
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19403641
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19888270
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16913205
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17505064
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17327526
  24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19145725
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