March 11, 2010

Vitamin Water or Sugar Water?

From vitamin water to weight loss cereal to Omega 3-enriched waffles, it seems like every food is trying to claim a health benefit. But are these items really healthier for us?

While enhancing food and drink with extra vitamins seems like it would be to your advantage, it often comes at a cost. For example, one of the biggest problems with a vitamin-enriched drink is that it typically contains a lot of sugar to improve the taste. The nutrition label of Vitamin Water by Glaceau, heavily advertised as a healthy beverage, shows that the drink contains 13 grams of sugar per serving, but there are 2.5 servings in each 20 oz. bottle. That means there are a whopping 32.5 grams, which is nearly seven teaspoons of sugar in each bottle of Vitamin Water—nearly as much as a 12 oz. can of soda.

The ingredients list is another clue that Vitamin Water is an unhealthy beverage. Listed from greatest to least amount, Vitamin Water’s first and second ingredients are water and crystalline fructose (sugar). There is more water and sugar in this beverage than any other ingredient—including vitamins.

When reading nutrition labels, basically anything that ends in the letters '–ose' is going to be a sugar, including fructose, sucrose and glucose. With the average American consuming between 160 and 200 lbs. of sugar a year, increased sugar consumption is currently a major health issue in the United States. In excess, sugar is poison to the body and creates unwanted stress that can lead to health problems ranging from depression to diabetes to obesity.

Besides the excess amount of sugar in Vitamin Water, it is important to examine the vitamins the drink contains. Today, many people do not get the proper amounts of nutrients from food alone, so supplementing is a good option, but it is important to note the quality of vitamins. The only regulation there is right now to monitor vitamin quality is the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Certification by the National Products Association. In the future, the FDA is planning on requiring all vitamin companies to have this certification. Until then, it is best to ingest vitamins from companies that are GMP certified—rather than from sources where uncertified vitamins are injected into food or drink.

Is Vitamin Water just sugar water in a pretty package? In my opinion, yes. So save your money and drink purified tap water instead. If you are interested in supplementing, choose Good Manufacturing Practice-certified vitamins and avoid consuming the excess sugar that comes with Vitamin Water. 

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