Vitamin enhanced water beverages have portrayed themselves as having all the benefits of plain water but with the added benefits of extra nutrients. More or less, a form of health drink. These drinks market themselves as being fortified with vitamins and minerals to target different purposes such as ‘energy’, ‘focus’ and ‘defence’.
The question is – do these beverages really contribute to better health and body function or is plain water a better option?
Vitamin water sugar content
One of the main concerns with vitamin enhanced water is the added sugar. They are marketed as being a healthy option yet they contain approximately 8 teaspoons of sugar. Some have compared them to cordial but with added nutrients.
The table below illustrates the sugar content of a nutrient enhanced water compared to a soft drink. A comparison between a can of coke and a bottle of vitamin water has been used to demonstrate that whilst the vitamin water may have approximately half the sugar of coke, you may drink much more of it due to the 590ml bottle available. This would therefore make it almost equivalent to the can of coke as far as sugar content is concerned. A comparison per 100ml is also provided.
The vitamin water beverage presented above provides over half of an average woman’s daily requirements for sugar.
What’s in vitamin enhanced water?
Dietitian Catherine Saxelby expresses her opinion of these drinks being nothing more than lolly water – a concoction of additives and sugar.
In a typical bottle of vitamin water, you will find:
- Fructose (sugar from fruit)
- Sucrose (cane sugar)
- Food acids (commonly citric acid, mono-potassium phosphate, di-potassium phosphate),
- Colours from juice
The most predominant ingredients in a food product are listed at the start of the ingredients list. Of the first 3 ingredients above, 2 are forms of sugar. The sugar content is so high that the Australian Dental Association actually wanted these ‘nutrient enhanced waters’ to carry warning labels1.
Food acids (in particular citric acid) have been shown to cause tooth enamel erosion. Prolonged consumption of these vitamin water drinks can therefore damage your teeth, particularly if they are sipped on over the day.
Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny (a dentistry professor) stated that cavities are created when bacteria mixes with sugar in the mouth – leading to decay1. Most of us are aware of the damaging effects of sugar on our teeth but what we aren’t as familiar with is the erosion that occurs when acid and other chemicals strip the minerals off teeth. Erosion affects all teeth causing sensitivity, discolouration and cracks1. One study showed orange juice to weaken tooth enamel by 84%1!
Some vitamin enhanced waters have guarana added which is a source of caffeine. Some of these beverages have as much as a cup of instant coffee or an energy drink. This is important to be aware of if you are pregnant or sensitive to caffeine.
…Or rather a lack of fruit. Vitamin enhanced water drinks give the impression that they contain a reasonable amount of fruit due to the names and flavours e.g. kiwi-strawberry flavour. However, many contain less than 1% fruit juice. Therefore, whilst fruit juice is also high in sugar, it would be a more natural way to get your nutrients. Better yet have a piece of fruit with a glass of water – you will be receiving more nutrients, fibre and no additives!
The verdict on vitamin enhanced water
Catherine Saxelby describes these drinks as a cross between a sports drink and an energy drink. They have the sugar of a sports drink and the vitamins and caffeine of an energy drink2. It is these factors alone that provide any energy or ‘pick me up’ – not the added nutrients.
Additionally, nutrient enhanced water beverages also become very expensive if you drink them habitually so having fruit and water instead could save you a lot of money.
At the end of the day, there is no need to consume vitamin enhanced waters. It would be pushing it to say these drinks are either healthy or natural. We can obtain all of the vitamins and minerals we need through dietary means, thereby cutting out the approximate 8 teaspoons of sugar and other additives e.g. flavouring, food acids and caffeine.
This article was written by our nutritionist Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian.
If you have questions about vitamin enhanced water or for a personalised meal plan, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a dietitian in Sydney. Contact us today!