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Monday, August 13, 2007

Liquid Vitamins, do they Really work?


Monday August 13, 2007
From Daily Herald
By Stephanie Chen

Nutrient-fortified sodas, juice, teas and flavored water are proliferating on store shelves, buoyed by clever marketing and a youthful following.

But some health experts question claims that range from providing "mental clarity" to promoting weight control - benefits that until now were more commonly found in the pharmacy than in the beverage aisle.

Coca-Cola Co., which already sells Diet Coke Plus, a cola fortified with vitamins and minerals, plans to expand its Glaceau Vitaminwater line of enhanced water to more supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines across the U.S. and beyond. Coke is also adding vitamins and fiber to its Dasani bottled water. {Continued click READ MORE below}


PepsiCo Inc. now offers SoBe Life Water, enhanced with four B vitamins, and its zero-calorie sparkling drink Tava will be infused with vitamins and chromium when launched next year. Next year, Jones Soda Co. will roll out an energy drink with amino acids.

The explosion of nutrient-laced drinks reflects consumers' desire for more healthful choices than soda. Sales of these drinks more than tripled from 2001 to 2006, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp., compared with 5 percent growth for the U.S. beverage industry overall.

'But as marketing claims grow bolder, some health experts say there's little evidence the drinks improve health.

Vitaminwater's peach-and-mango "endurance" flavor, containing as much vitamin E as two apples, claims it can "enhance physical endurance."

"Clarity and focus" is the benefit from Jones Soda's energy drink with amino acids, says Peter M. van Stolk, president and chief executive.

Ads for Airforce Nutrisoda Slender say the fizzy soda, made by Ardea Beverage Co., helps "healthily manage your weight." Ardea officials claim another flavor packed with vitamin C, magnesium and 10 other nutrients helped improve test scores of 100 seventh-graders in South Carolina who got a can for breakfast for 90 days.

But some nutritionists say these enhanced drinks might lead consumers to pack in more calories than they need. Popular drinks such as SoBe Life Water and Vitaminwater often contain about 125 calories per bottle - less than sugared sodas, but certainly more than plain water.

"The manufacturers say it provides people with another source of vitamins and minerals, and that is true," says Anita Sandretto, a lecturer at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. "But whether it has any effect on preventing disease or making people healthier is still scientifically unproven."

Many people already get most of the nutrients in these beverages from other foods or multivitamin pills. Vitamin C and several B vitamins, frequently infused in drinks because they dissolve well in water, already are common in the U.S. diet, say health experts. For example, each 8-ounce serving of passion-fruit-and-citrus-flavored SoBe Life Water has 10 percent of four types of B vitamins, considered essential to helping cells make and use energy. But a bowl of breakfast cereal or a couple of slices of bread typically offer even more than that amount.

Meanwhile, other nutrients often lacking in people's diets typically aren't in enhanced drinks or are present in such small quantities that they don't make much difference. Dasani Plus, for example, has one gram of fiber per serving, or 4 percent of the daily recommended amount. Fiber helps regulate digestion but can become chunky in liquids or create an aftertaste, making it difficult to put in drink form.

Bob Murray, director of Gatorade Sports Science Institute at Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, says drinks like his company's Propel aren't designed to be the main source of vitamins. Instead, nutrient-packed drinks are "an insurance policy."

Brandon James, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Memphis, says he thinks Pepsi's Propel - a vitamin-enhanced water - helped clear up his acne. He started drinking Propel because he didn't like the humdrum taste of plain water and was looking for a fast way to get his vitamins. James, who says he gets no compensation from Pepsi, has created a group on Facebook called "I Get All My Vitamins From Propel."

Drink makers have lots of leeway to promote these sodas, teas, fruit juices and water. The label on Vitaminwater's Power-C brand tells consumers: "legally, we are prohibited from making exaggerated claims about the potency of the nutrients in this bottle. therefore, legally we wouldn't tell you that after drinking this, eugene from kansas started using horseshoes as a thighmaster or that this drink gave agnes from delaware enough strength to bench press llamas."

Vitaminwater-maker Glaceau says its labels are meant to be funny and that consumers don't interpret their pitches as health claims.

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the claims food and drink makers can put on their labels, doesn't require companies to seek approval for claims before the drinks reach store shelves. Usually the agency would intervene only when suspicions or complaints arise. Kim Rawlings, an FDA spokeswoman, says "structure function" claims - regarding how a nutrient aids the function of the body - must be "truthful and not misleading." This would include touting benefits such as more endurance or energy. Specific health claims of links between a product and disease are supposed to be backed by scientific evidence.

At the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates advertising claims, Mary Engle, associate director for advertising practices, says the agency requires beverage makers to provide truthful advertising supported by scientific studies.

Beverage companies like Glaceau point to research showing the general nutritional benefits of consuming recommended vitamins and minerals. "We're not trying to sell snake oil and promise everything in the world," says Carol Dollard, chief operating officer at Glaceau. "We're just saying that these nutrients can help."

Beverage makers and nutritionists agree that putting certain vitamins in liquid form accelerates absorption into the bloodstream. Water-soluble nutrients like vitamins B and C enter the bloodstream directly. Solid foods can take longer to process and sometimes contain compounds that interfere with vitamin absorption.

But health experts say the situation is slightly different with fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D and E. Such vitamins may enter the digestive tract more quickly if they are consumed in a beverage, but how much you absorb will depend on how much fat is in the digestive tract.

Overdosing on vitamins in these drinks is unlikely, says Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Unneeded water-soluble vitamins are excreted after they are consumed. Excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body's fat tissues to be released as needed. There are certain risks to very high doses of some of these, such as vitamin A, but the chance of absorbing dangerous levels by drinking a lot of beverages is extremely low, nutritionists say.

Rimm is worried that some nutrient-enhanced energy drinks and teas contain herbs or other additives such as echinacea or St. John's wort. Eating too much of them could be risky because the effect of the herbs isn't well-known, he says.

But even the most supercharged drinks aren't as healthy as eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which contain hundreds of compounds that could have health benefits, says Barbara Rolls, a nutritional sciences professor at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa. Chewing also makes consumers feel fuller than drinking, she adds, though beverage makers insist that enhanced drinks lure some consumers away from sugary, calorie-laden sodas.

CC Brunk, an 18-year-old in Lancaster, Pa., kicked her soda habit last summer after discovering a grape-flavored variety of Vitaminwater called formula 50, named for rapper 50 Cent. "It felt healthy to drink it," she says. Each bottle has half the recommended amount of many nutrients, including as much folic acid as 2¨ cups of cooked broccoli.

She drinks as many as three bottles of Vitaminwater a day. Her mom doesn't mind spending as much as one-third more for Vitaminwater than Coke's regular Dasani bottled water. And Brunk says she plans to bring her new beverage habit along to college at West Chester University in Pennsylvania this fall. "It's essential," she says.

Source: dailyherald.com

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