Vitamin-enhanced waters – what’s not to love?

Krysta Levac
23 January 2012

Imagine it’s a hot summer day and you’re desperate for something cold to drink. Pop, sports drink, water … wait a minute … vitamin-enhanced water! What could be more perfect than getting some extra vitamins in fruit-flavoured water? Well, here are a few things to ask yourself before you reach for that bottle.

Do I actually need the vitamins? In North America, vitamin deficiencies are rare because most people eat a variety of different foods. Also, many of our foods are “fortified”, or supplemented, with vitamins. For example, B vitamins are added to breads and cereals, and vitamin D is added to milk.

Did you know? Vitamins are substances found in food that are essential for normal growth and cell function. There are 13 substances that are vitamins for humans: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and eight different B vitamins.

Will I actually absorb and/or use the vitamins? There are two categories of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and Bs) are easily absorbed by the intestines, enter the blood stream, and are carried to body tissues where they are used right away. What your body doesn’t need is excreted in your urine. If you‘re getting enough water-soluble vitamins already, those in vitamin-enhanced drinks will only be flushed out and not used by your body at all.

Did you know? Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because your skin makes it in response to ultraviolet light from the sun. It can be difficult for Canadians to make enough Vitamin D in the winter, and about 4 per cent of Canadians are deficient.

Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, E, D, and K) are absorbed along with dietary fat in the intestine and are stored in body fat and the liver. If the vitamin-enhanced water you’re drinking contains fat-soluble vitamins, you won’t absorb them very well unless you’ve recently eaten some food that contains fat

Do I want the extra sugar? The sweet taste of fruit-flavoured vitamin-enhanced water is from refined sugar, which has little nutritional value. It may surprise you to know that a 591 ml bottle of VitaminWater has almost as much sugar as a 355 ml can of Coke (32 grams versus 42 grams)! Be on the lookout for tricky nutrition labels that tell you how much sugar is in a small “serving”, rather than the whole bottle. Often the “serving size” is not a realistic portion!

Did you know? In 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sued the Coca-Cola Company (which makes VitaminWater), claiming that the advertised health benefits of Vitamin Water were fraudulent.

Hopefully, this article has given you some “food for thought” when it comes to vitamin-enhanced water. For most people, a well-balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables supplies all the vitamins you need!

Learn More!

For more information about what vitamins do and what foods they are found in:

For a more detailed (and very critical) look at vitamin-enhanced waters from the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

For a summary of the lawsuit filed against Coca-Cola about VitaminWater:

To learn more about reading nutrition labels:

To test your knowledge about nutrition labels (requires Flash Player 8 or above);

Statistics Canada: Vitamin D status of Canadians as measured in the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey

MedicineNet: Water Soluble Vitamins vs Fat Soluble Vitamins

Scienceline: Is vitaminwater good for you?

Article first published on May 21, 2010.

Krysta Levac

After an undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, I earned a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from Cornell University in 2001. I spent 7 years as a post-doctoral fellow and research associate in stem cell biology at Robarts Research Institute at Western University in London, ON. I currently enjoy science writing, Let's Talk Science outreach, and volunteering at my son's school. I love sharing my passion for science with others, especially children and youth. I am also a bookworm, a yogi, a quilter, a Lego builder and an occasional "ninja spy" with my son.

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