By Alice || Edited by Go Ask Alice Editorial Team || Last edited May 15, 2024
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Alice! Health Promotion. "Are flavored water enhancers bad for you?." Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University, 15 May. 2024, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/are-flavored-water-enhancers-bad-you. Accessed 24, May. 2024.

Alice! Health Promotion. (2024, May 15). Are flavored water enhancers bad for you?. Go Ask Alice!, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/are-flavored-water-enhancers-bad-you.

Dear Alice,

Is Mio (water enhancer) bad for you?

Dear Reader,

The label “water enhancer” is both self-explanatory and ambiguous... Sure, they enhance water, but what does “enhance” really mean? And can this “enhancing” really be good for you? While the ingredients suggest that most water enhancers are meant to enhance the flavor of water by providing a sweet—and low-calorie—taste, some water enhancers include extra ingredients that are often used as energy boosters. Although all ingredients used in water enhancers are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food products, researchers are still investigating the potential adverse health effects associated with some brands. The choice to add a few drops of enhancer to your water is ultimately up to you. Read on to learn more about what ingredients researchers are keeping their eyes on!

While different brands of water enhancers may come in different flavors and forms (liquid, powder, or tablet), most include a similar set of ingredients. Out of these ingredients, some that researchers suggest may impact your health include: 

  • Acesulfame potassium, also known as “Ace K,” is an artificial sweetener that’s controversially approved by the FDA for use in food. Some research suggests that consumption of this sweetener is associated with increased cancer risk. However, further research is required to examine this link. 
  • Azo dyes, also known as “artificial food dyes,” are a contested ingredient because research shows that they may induce allergic or intolerance reactions or hyperactivity. They may also contain traces of carcinogens. These effects have been most linked to “yellow 5,” a food dye often used in water enhancers. 

A few servings of a water enhancer (used as instructed on the label) are unlikely to expose you to enough of these ingredients to cause harm. However, knowing the ingredients may help inform your decision of whether to use water enhancers regularly. You might consider weighing the pros and cons of what matters most to you. Do you go for plain white sugar over artificial sugars? How important is it to you that ingredients are organic? Would you be interested in enhancing your water using other ingredients that don’t have artificially added flavors and colors?

Additionally, some water enhancers may also include ingredients meant to serve as “energy boosters.” Often, the ingredient of choice by water enhancer brands seems to be caffeine. The FDA recommends that people consume under 400 milligrams of this chemical stimulant a day. However, because people react to chemicals differently, you may consider starting out with a lower limit to see how you react. When consuming water enhancers that include caffeine, keep in mind that caffeine may induce or heighten: 

  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety 
  • Increased blood cholesterol levels 
  • Headaches and jitters 

List adapted from the American Medical Association

Tuning into how your body feels may be helpful when deciding if you’d like to continue consuming water enhancers, caffeinated or not. If you find that the benefits of water enhancers—increased water consumption and decreased sugary soda consumption—outweigh the potential adverse effects, you may ultimately decide to stick with them. If you’re weary of the health implications but are still looking for a way to flavor your water, you may consider adding fresh fruits or mint leaves. Doing so can add sweetness and subtle flavor from a more natural source. Finally, if you plan on picking up a water enhancer the next time you see one, paying attention to the labels and comparing it to different brands is great practice. In the sea of different brands and flavors, it’s easy to grab something that includes ingredients you may be choosing to avoid, so make sure you’re double-checking what ends up in your cart!

Happy hydrating, 

Additional Relevant Topics:

Nutrition and Physical Activity
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