Another Kind of Water Pollution?

three-blue-water-glasses

As we have seen, there is a correlation between a higher body mass index and the need for plenty of water, because the person’s increased weight, surface area and metabolic rate all push the requirement upward. It was disturbing to learn that most doctors do not proffer information about the vital importance of hydration. The need for sufficient water exists in everyone, not just athletes or even active civilians. Better hydration could probably alleviate many headaches suffered by many of us.

Adding stuff to water is known by the industry as “a more beneficial hydration solution,” “premium hydration,” and other euphemisms, but what is it really? Is value-added water what it claims to be?

Prof. Marion Nestle once declared, “The word is out: If you are thirsty, drink water.” Although the word may be out, neither consumers nor manufacturers seem ready to take it as carved in stone. For many years, our culture supported the idea that any problem could be solved by swallowing the right pill. Lately, that assumption has morphed into a belief that any problem can be solved by drinking the right bottle of “value-added water.”

Does the consumer want to perform better in a sports event, or score higher on an exam? Ingest more vitamins without having to cook vegetables? Burn body fat more efficiently? Stay awake longer? Sleep more deeply? There is a potion for every purpose.

Also, today’s Americans want their water fancy. At the very least, they want it to have a “flavor profile,” and even better, to be “enhanced,” or “functional,” or both. They want their water to have a science-fictional or exotic foreign-ish name — all of which explains why the beverage market is fragmented, and becoming more so.

The open secret

But even if consumers insist on pure water, they won’t get it. Apparently, there was a finite period of sanity in the water business.

According to Coca-Cola executive Hal Kravitz, at one point…

People started flocking to the purest form of hydration which was water. They didn’t want calories. They didn’t want coloring. They didn’t want vitamins. They wanted pure water.

Or thought they did, but the success of a product called Smartwater proved otherwise. Kravitz went on to say that the market accepted “some variance of that without violating those other requirements.” It is almost as if Big Soda mused, “Okay, we can’t put sugar in the water… What else can we load it up with?” — and arrived at the answer — “Just about anything.”

Neil Martinez-Belkin describes a fancy water that sounds more like juice:

In 2014 Ocean Spray, the world’s leading producer of cranberry juice, introduced PACt, a cranberry extract water boasting 80 milligrams of proanthocyandins, which the company says contains cleanse-like benefits.

In what is supposed to be plain water, it is acceptable to include “magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, salt, calcium chloride, and sodium bicarbonate,” and still advertise the product as pure and natural. Oddly, even the flavor is a focus of dissent:

The additives pose no health concern per Professor Marion Nestle, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. In her book “What to Eat”; she added that the extra chemicals in bottled water create a salty and bitter flavor.

Yet according to the industry, they are meant to add a sweet taste.

Why must water taste of anything at all? A very “meta” argument could be made, that we as human beings were designed to find pure, clear water the most delicious flavor in the world. The fact that we turn away from that absence of flavor could be a symptom of our general unwellness.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Future of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages,” MenusOfChange.org, 06/13/16
Source: “From Vitaminwater’s Roots, Many Branches,” Bevnet.com, 10/21/15
Source: “Major Beverage Companies Don’t Want You Discovering These Dark Secrets About Bottled Water,” GreenvilleGazette.com, 07/30/14
Photo credit: Hiroyuki Takeda (onigiri-kun) via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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