“Stay balanced with our electrolyte water!” says the Whole Foods 365 Electrolyte Water bottle. “Electrolytenment starts here,” quips Resource Natural Spring Water.
Should we all be choosing water enhanced with electrolytes like sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium?
“Most people get all the electrolytes they need from their diets,” says Robert Kenefick, who studies hydration at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts. “For recreational activities, most people don’t need more.”
Among those who may need more: very heavy sweaters, “salty” sweaters (their sweat leaves a whitish residue on their clothing), and people working or competing strenuously for more than an hour (like running a marathon, for example), especially in hot or humid weather.
Electrolytes help keep water in the bloodstream and in cells for a longer time before it’s excreted by the kidneys, Kenefick explains. That could help keep those people from becoming dehydrated.
For everyone else, food contains enough sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium to keep blood levels steady.
if you do need extra
If you do need extra electrolytes, you’re probably better off with a sports drink because regular waters may not have enough electrolytes to matter.
The minerals in Whole Foods 365, Resource, and Glacéau Smartwater, for example, are there just “for taste,” as the small print on the label notes.
What about extra vitamins?
Adding vitamins or minerals to water is an easy and inexpensive strategy to make the water appear healthier. The cost of a ten-year supply of a day’s worth of vitamin C from China, for example, runs only about $1 wholesale. So adding some vitamin C is a trivial expense for water bottlers. But it lets them charge a higher price.
B vitamins are especially popular among drink manufacturers. Just about every 20 oz. bottle of Glacéau Vitaminwater and Vitaminwater Zero, for example, delivers the Daily Value for B-5 (pantothenic acid), B-6, and B-12. Yet in dozens of studies, people who took B vitamins—or high doses of other vitamins—every day for years were typically no better off than people who took a placebo. Maybe these waters should be called placebo-enhanced instead.
Source: Ann. Intern. Med. 2014. doi:10.7326/M14-0198.
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