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Health Drinks – Are They Really Healthy?

Posted Apr 02 2011 7:53am

With the constant promotion of healthy eating & the importance of healthy eating, more & more consumers are opting for healthier drinks instead of the traditional canned fizz but is this really the healthier choice?

Over the last 2 decades there has been a significant change in our preferences in the drinks market. For example between 1990 & 2005 sales of bottled water quadrupled.

More recently our taste for bottled water has seen the development of water with added ingredients – flavours, minerals & vitamins - designed to persuade us that here is an even healthier, even tastier option. There are drinks that promise to aid energy levels, concentration, sleep & relaxation.

Our tendency is to associate words such as fruit & vitamins with a healthy diet & it often doesn’t occur to us that the product might contain other ingredients that are not quite so beneficial. We are attracted by the words used to advertise it such as the crudely named ‘Neuro Bliss’ with its claims that it is “designed to promote happiness and eliminate stress without affecting your energy levels” & that it “works immediately”.

So are these drinks actually healthier than fizzy drinks? It turns out that some flavoured waters contain more sugar than coke! The Advertising Standards Agency found an advert claiming the product Vitaminwater to be nutritious was misleading since it contained the equivalent of 5 teaspoons of sugar. A spokeswoman for the company said: “We have always been completely transparent that the drinks contain 23g of sugar in each 500ml bottle. It provides a convenient way to help people hydrate and get more of the vitamins and minerals they may require”.

Bridget Benelan from the British Nutrition Foundation explained how some of the many claims that appear on these products despite not meeting with EC regulations. “For these claims to appear on a label, they have to either comply with the European Commission approved list, or be going through the process of applying for that approval. But the EC regulation has only been in place since 2007, and since thousands of appeals have been submitted, it is understandably taking a long time to check them all.’’

“A lot of them haven’t got through. For example, some probiotics, as well as the link between omega 3 and cognitive function. But vitamin D’s link to bone health has been proved, and as long as there’s more than 15% of the recommended daily amount in the drink, they can make that claim.”

So while some of the drinks do contain things that may in themselves be good for us, the product as a whole may be far from healthy, especially if it is consumed on a regular basis. Benelan’s verdict - “If people are consuming large quantities of things with a high calorie content, then there is reason to worry. If we want something to drink, it’s usually because we’re thirsty, not because we need energy – and it’s unlikely to mean that later we don’t eat something because we’ve consumed calories from that drink.”

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