Enhanced H2O: Is 'boosted' water really worth the money?

Boosted water brands. (WTHR)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Water is one of life's essential elements. It's vital to human life, and it's recommended by many doctors that you drink it every day. It's a basic formulation of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, H2O. However, water is big business, especially bottled water.

In fact, Americans spent nearly $18.5 billion on 14 billion gallons of bottled water in 2017, making it the most popular beverage you can buy, according to Beverage Industry.

So companies are taking full advantage and adding, or at least re-formulating the original recipe to some degree, with things like electrolytes for taste, pH-balanced water and even vitamins, minerals and much more. But are those enhanced waters actually any better than basic bottled or even tap water?

We talked to dietitian Katie Hake at IU Health to see if there's really an extra benefit to enhanced H2O. We also spoke to a local mom whose kids are demanding the trendy water choices.

For Darling Treminio de Celis making the switch from soda to bottled water was a game-changer. It wasn't easy, though. "It was hard," she said. "I used to drink eight sodas a day."

Darling Treminio said she lost a lot of weight when she cut back on soda and started drinking "boosted" water. (WTHR)
Darling Treminio said she lost a lot of weight when she cut back on soda and started drinking "boosted" water. (WTHR)

Treminio de Celis said she lost a lot of weight with the advice of a registered dietitian. Her family finally switched to bottled water and said they saw great results. They struggled though with what they say is the bland taste of regular water.

"I did need something to enhance my water,” she insisted.

But she knows drinking a lot of branded bottled water can tend to drain the bank account. "We buy four to six cases of water every week," she said. Her daughter prefers to drink Core Hydration." This particular brand is one of many that promises a boost that regular water just doesn't have.

For example, some claim they are "ionized pH-balanced alkaline water, have added electrolytes for taste, are antioxidant-infused, while others go a step further claiming to be wellness water for immune and digestive health that promise to "transform water into wellness."

Karma Wellness Water claims it's infused with fresh, essential vitamins plus probiotic. Hydrogen Water, or HTWO, claims it's infused with molecular hydrogen gas to boost endurance and even states their water reduces fatigue.

Dietitian Hake said the first thing she notices with all this water is marketing, and it appears to be working.

"I think my kids would probably go for it because it's a cool pouch," Treminio de Celis said referring to HTWO. The water appeals most to her son who plays soccer because he wants energy without caffeine. HTWO promises that.

To check out HTWO's pitch for why their water is best, see below:

Although it all sounds good, some dietitians, like Hake, are skeptical of some of the bolder claims.

"Just like everything out there in the health and wellness industry, there's no magic pill,” Hake said. "Depending on the city you are in, tap water does have calcium and these different minerals that our bodies do need to maintain. We talk about alkaline water, essentially our bodies are at a pH of 7, so these alkaline waters may only be an 8 or a 9 so not much greater, but they use these as a marketing advantage. Just like with foods, they may add a gram of calcium, and then slap on the label 'great source of calcium.' But when you take a step back or flip around the label there is more to the story."

We reached out to U.S. Food and Drug Administration representative, Peter Cassell, who said the "FDA protects consumers of bottled water through the Federal Drug and Cosmetic Act, which makes manufacturers responsible for producing safe, wholesome, and truthfully labeled food products."

The FDA describes bottled water as something that does not contain any added ingredients. Cassell said water with electrolytes or vitamins and minerals added actually moves it from being bottled water to a beverage, but it's still regulated by the agency.

Peter Cassell. (Courtesy: Peter Cassell)
Peter Cassell. (Courtesy: Peter Cassell)

"One of the FDA's highest priorities is the safety of the American food supply," Cassell said. "Federal law requires that food is safe and honestly labeled. If consumers have experienced problems with food, we urge them to contact us and report the issue. We provide phone numbers for consumer complaint coordinators for each state and have a web-based reporting form that consumers can either complete online or print out and mail. The FDA also monitors the food supply in a number of ways including through facility inspections, the FDA's Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program, the Total Diet Study Program, Microbiological Surveillance Sampling, other sampling assignments and other surveillance, and works with companies to correct problems when they occur.”

To read more about how the FDA regulates bottled water and other beverages, click here.

"We want a quick fix!" Hake said. "Consumers want healthier options, so that's why there are so many different options out there. It's not necessarily because they are better, but that's what customers are asking for."

Treminio de Celis said she'll continue to buy bottled water for her family but is trying to convince her kids they don't always need all the extra ingredients.