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My sister asked me to look into Glaceau VitaminWater for her. Before I started looking around I had some preconceived notions of what I would find. Water. Sugar. Calories. Claims of vitaminny goodness.

What did I find? Pretty much what I expected.

For a product that makes nutritional claims, information on their website is sparse. When a “nutritional product” would rather push pictures of Kelly Clarkson and Shaq than be forthcoming with actual nutritional information, its usually a sign that the product isn’t everything its made out to be.

So, abandoning Glaceau’s website, I looked for the information elsewhere. Each bottle of Glaceau VitaminWater contains 2.5 servings. Since you are unlikely to drink less than a whole bottle, we’ll discuss it as a single serving. Therefore, each bottle has the following:

* Calories: 125
* Total fat: 0g
* Sodium: 0mg
* Potassium: 150mg
* Total carbohydrates: 32g
* Sugar: 32g
* Caffeine: 0mg
* Protein: 0g
* Vitamin C: 100%,
* Vitamin B3: 50%,
* Vitamin B6: 50%,
* Vitamin B12: 50%,
* Vitamin B5: 50%

Let’s compare that to a can of Coke (from Coke’s website):

* Calories: 145
* Total fat: 0g
* Sodium: 49.5mg
* Potassium: 0mg
* Total carbohydrates: 40.5g
* Sugar: ?????
* Caffeine: 34mg

You’ll notice that there is no sugar information for a can of Coke. Apparently the Coca-cola Company doesn’t believe that telling you how much sugar is in its product falls under the definition of nutritional information. This is their official nutritional page for soft drinks. (Apparently however, if there is no sugar in their product, then the Coca-cola Company does think that its relevant. Here is the nutritional information for Dasani water.)

So, again, we have to search the web for information that you could reasonably expect to find on a company’s website. Surprisingly, for such a widely consumed product, its not easy to find good information on the sugar content of Coke.

McDonalds has a lot of information on their drinks. Their information is for fountain drinks, which are more watered down than a can.

McDonalds (12 oz. fountain)
110 calories
29 sugars
29 carbs
Jack in the Box (12 oz. fountain)
102 calories
27.6 sugars
27.6 carbs
132 calories
39.6 sugars
39.6 carbs

Even though Coca-cola won’t tell us how much sugar is in its product, we can use the above information to deduce it. If you notice, all of the carbs in Coke come from sugar. Therefore, if the Coke website tells us that there are 40.5 carbs in a can of Coke, it is also essentially telling us that there are 40.5 grams of sugar in a can of Coke.

Ok, so after way more searching than you should have to do, we can compare the basic information for a 20 oz VitaminWater and a 20 oz Coke:

* Calories: 125
* Total fat: 0g
* Sodium: 0mg
* Potassium: 150mg
* Total carbohydrates: 32g
* Sugar: 32g
* Caffeine: 0mg
* Calories: 242
* Total fat: 0g
* Sodium: 82mg
* Potassium: 0mg
* Total carbohydrates: 67g
* Sugar: 67g
* Caffeine: 56mg

From a calorie and sugar standpoint, we can say that ounce for ounce, VitaminWater is half as bad as Coke. Less precisely, one bottle of VitaminWater is the equivalent to a can of Coke. Additionally, you’re not getting any of the sodium or caffeine associated with Coke. Given this information, I conclude that if you are going to drink either of these products, VitaminWater is the one you should choose.

But, just because its better for you than Coke, does that mean that you should be drinking VitaminWater?

32 grams of sugar is the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of sugar. 125 calories is 1/24th of a pound. Extrapolated, drinking one VitaminWater a day for a year is the equivalent of consuming 25.6 pounds of sugar. All other things being equal, drinking one VitaminWater a day instead of an equivalent amount of tap water would cause you to gain 15 pounds.

But what about claims of vitaminny goodness?

The Fitnessburglar has a pretty simple rule to live by when it comes to eating: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

I generally don’t go for vitamin supplementation. Vitamin supplements raise two questions. Does it work? Even if it does work, do you need to supplement?

First, generally speaking, the jury is still out on whether or not daily supplementation with a multivitamin provides any benefit for a normal, healthy adult who has a well-balanced nutrionally sound diet. This is from the Department of Health and Human Services:

“The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against the use of supplements of:

* Vitamins A, C, or E,
* Multivitamins with folic acid,
* Antioxidant combinations for the prevention of cancer or cardiovascular disease.”

And here: “Conclusion. Multivitamin/mineral supplement use may prevent cancer in individuals with poor or suboptimal nutritional status. The heterogeneity in the study populations limits generalization to United States population. Multivitamin/mineral supplements conferred no benefit in preventing cardiovascular disease or cataract, and may prevent advanced age-related macular degeneration only in high-risk individuals. The overall quality and quantity of the literature on the safety of multivitamin/mineral supplements is limited.”

So, if it may or may not be of any benefit, is there any reason you should be doing it? Not if you’re eating properly. Not if you are eating a wide variety of real food, including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, grains, etc. If you are eating properly, you should be receiving an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals. There should be no need to supplement. Supplementing may not harm you. In fact it probably won’t. But if you’re eating properly, why would you need to?


VitaminWater isn’t going to kill you. If you’re at the Qwik-E-Mart and you need a drink, its better for you than a Coke. But you probably shouldn’t be stocking your fridge with it. Its probably not something you want to be drinking every day.

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