- Drink more water and less sweetened beverages…and that includes less non-nutritive or zero calorie drinks to reduce weight gain.
- Avoid unwanted calories in the form of sweetened fancy coffees.
- Water can be flavored at home with sliced citrus fruits, fresh mint, peeled, sliced fresh ginger or a sliced cucumber.
Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen and creates the base for which all our bodily reactions occur. Water is an essential component of the human body. Two-thirds of our weight is water. Water must be consumed to replace the amount lost each day during basic activities and this amount increases with exercise, in hot climates and at altitude. It is impossible to sustain life for more than a week without it and it is necessary to the healthy function of all internal organs. According to the Institute of Medicine, for the majority of healthy people daily hydration needs are met by letting thirst be their guide and specific requirements for how much to drink have not been made.
Sweet beverages provide rapid access to energy. So, if you are actively exercising this may be an important source of fuel. In the U.S. the consumption of sweet beverages (soda and juice) is staggering:
- In 2011, beverage companies produced enough sugar drinks to provide an average of 45 gallons per American—or slightly more than nine 12-ounce cans a week.
- Sugar drinks were the single-largest source of calories in the American diet in 2010, providing an average of about seven percent of total calories per person.
- Sugar drinks (sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweetened teas, energy drinks) accounted for 46 percent of all added sugars in the American diet in 2010.
Guess what? The majority of those sweet beverages found in energy ans sport drinks are not being consumed by athletes. They are being consumed by those simply looking to quench a thirst or just out of habit. So what happens with those sugars when those who aren’t exercising drink this high octane fuel? Well the body stores that energy for a rainy day. Typically those excess sugars consumed ultimately get converted to fat.
Note: One pound of fat equates to about 4,000 calories stored up for that rainy day. That’s a lot of energy. To put it into perspective with about 2,500 calories you could run a marathon, that’s right, 26.2 miles!
Sugary drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. The average can of sugar-sweetened soda or juice provides about 150 calories, almost all of them from sugar, usually high-fructose corn syrup. (note: high fructose corn syrup is particularly problematic since it is handled differently but the body accelerating the harmful effects we see with table sugar). That’s the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of table sugar. If you were to drink just one can of a sugar-sweetened soft drink every day, and not decrease calories elsewhere, you could gain up to 5 pounds in a year.
Regarding the question of whether zero-calorie drinks cause weight gain the subject remains undecided. A concern is that indirectly zero-calorie drinks may contribute to weight gain by encouraging one’s palate to maintain a general preference for sweets which could influence other unhealthy food choices. Regular sports drinks contain sugars plus electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and chloride and many are formulated to provide recommended amounts of energy to support optimal performance during prolonged physical activity and to help maintain fluid balance by replacing the electrolytes lost through perspiration. Energy drinks in addition to its sugar source often contain caffeine with some contain vitamins, amino acids and herbal extracts such as gingko. The caffeine content varies by brand, but on average contains about 70 to 85 mg of caffeine per eight-ounce serving ( 1 cup of brewed coffee has from 95-200 mg of caffeine).
Here are the facts:
- The Institute of Medicine has set a general guide for adequate water intake of 125 ounces for men and 91 ounces for women.
- About 80 percent of people’s total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages and the other 20 percent is derived from food.
- Water is clearly a great alternative to sugar loaded beverages. Drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy and substituting it for higher calorie beverages is a win-win strategy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes bottled water as water that is intended for human consumption and that is sealed in bottles or other containers with no added ingredients, except that it may contain a safe and suitable antimicrobial agent. Fluoride may also be added within the limits set by the FDA. Some health considerations about water: bottled water is a much more expensive choice than tap water.
Importantly, there is no assurance that water from a bottle is any cleaner or safer than tap water in the U.S. (some estimate that about 25% of bottled water is actually plain tap water). The FDA regulates bottled water as a packaged food product and the safety of the plastic water bottle must also meet FDA standards.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Some recent concern about health risks of plastic beverage and food containers due to bisphenol A (BPA) an “endocrine-disrupting” chemical that can leach out of the polycarbonate plastic container. The ingestion of food or beverages from plastic containers has been shown to increase BPA concentrations in humans. For instance in a study of Harvard undergrads the consumption of cold beverages from polycarbonate bottles was associated with a 67% increase in urinary BPA concentrations. Low-level concentrations of BPA in animals and possibly in humans may cause endocrine disruption and the use of stainless steel or non-polycarbonate plastic may be the safer choice. Research to date to determine if BPA causes harmful effects in humans is inconclusive and further studies are ongoing to reevaluate the safety of BPA in polycarbonate plastics.
The Environmental Protection Agency says between 10% and 20% of our exposure to lead comes from contaminated water. It’s even worse for babies who can get from 40-60% of lead exposure from drinking formula mixed with contaminated water. Homes built before 1986 are the most likely to have lead plumbing and as of January 1, 2014, all newly installed water faucets, fixtures, pipes and fittings must meet new lead-free requirements, with the amount of lead to be less than 0.25%.
With the obvious uncertainties recently highlighted by the Flint, Michigan crisis, the CDC recommends that a prudent approach is to ask your water supplier, “Does the service pipe at my street (header pipe) have lead in it?”
Water, water everywhere
Spring Water that comes from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring.
Purified Water is processed using such methods as distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or other suitable processes to meet the criteria for purified water.
Mineral water contains no less than 250 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved solids. Mineral water is distinguished from other types of bottled water by its constant level and relative proportions of mineral and trace elements at the point it emerges directly from the source.
Well Water comes from a hole drilled into the ground which taps into an aquifer (an underground layer of rock or sand that naturally contains water).
Artesian Well Water originates from a well that taps a confined aquifer in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.
Tap Water comes directly from a community water utility to your faucet with no guarantee of safety. We have always considered tap water to be safe; however, since Flint, Michigan the safety of our municipal water supply has been questioned as a result of high lead levels.
Sparkling Bottled Water is treatment with carbon dioxide and contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had when initially emerging from the source. Sparkling bottled waters may also be flavored, using natural or artificial sweeteners and flavors.
Tonic Water is also a carbonated water flavored with quinine and a sweetener like sugar, high fructose corn syrup or low-calorie sweetener. Quinine comes from the bark of the cinchona tree (a native of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes) and is used in malaria medications and may also be in most bitters. A potentially some serious reaction to quinine that can lower the platelet count and cause bleeding.
Alkaline (ionized) water with a high pH level has health claims to boost metabolism, improve energy and help absorb nutrients better and even slow the aging process. Excess “acidity” measured by checking urine pH is believed by some alternative practitioners and naturopaths to be related to cancer, heart diseases, arthritis, kidney stones, gallstones and osteoporosis. The “solution” according these practitioners is to consume “alkaline” water, or an “alkaline” diet and supplements. Unfortunately, nothing is more painful than the death of an illusion. The human body maintains a fairly consistent pH balance (homeostasis) with a blood pH of about 7.4 and the urine pH is not a reliable measure of blood pH. Naturally-occurring mineral water contains alkalizing compounds, such as calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate and may have some theoretical benefit for those with increased stomach acidity and acid-reflux. Attempts to change urine pH to prevent and treat medical conditions and slow down the aging process is fiction with no reliable scientific evidence to support the health claims.
Inexpensive, thirst quenching, no calories, water is a miracle drink and vital for life. Access to clean drinking water is a blessing since it is estimated that 750 million people around the world lack access to safe water. Unfortunately, even in the USA there are issues with safe drinking water: lead in our water supply and the concerns with plastic bottle residues.
Carwile JL, et al. Polycarbonate Bottle Use and Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2009;117(9):1368-1372.