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Is That Right? Crystal Light Makes Women Drink More Water

Ads for Crystal Light low-calorie powdered drink mixes say that "Women who use Crystal Light drink 20 percent more water." (They don't say more than whom, but we're to understand they mean more than women who don't use the product.)

But what else are you getting with that water?


Some varieties of Crystal Light are vitamin-fortified: the "Enhanced" formulas, for instance, contain mixes of small quantities of caffeine, vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12 to promote, variously, "Energy," "Immunity," or "Hydration." The "Sunrise" series provides 100 percent of the DV for Vitamin C and 10 percent of the DV for calcium. A "Skin Essentials" line promises to "nourish your skin from within" with vitamins A, C and E plus a "plant extract containing lutein and xeaxanthin." (These last two are thought to help combat macular degeneration, an eye condition, but aren't established as helping the skin in any particular way.)

I'm all for vitamins and minerals, but I'd just as soon get mine from whole fruits, vegetables and other real foods. And don't be fooled by the names of Crystal Light products: there's nary a pomegranate, strawberry or mango in the bunch.

As for water itself, I like mine straight from the tap and can't understand why people need to sweeten it and add artificial flavor. A nice slice of lemon in a glass of cold water is as refreshing as all get-out (and something the Crystal Light folks themselves recommend in one of their Web-site tips). A yoga friend of mine brings to class a bottle of something she calls "nice water" -- water with cucumber slices.

But my real gripe with Crystal Light is that, despite the Web site's admirable provision of information about the importance of keeping your body hydrated and water's effect on your health, their products depend for their low calorie content on two artificial sweeteners that I just don't trust: aspartame and acesulfame potassium. As I've written before, I can't tolerate the former, and while I have little first-hand experience with the latter, I'd just as soon keep it that way.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest maintains a list of food additives that advises as to whether they're safe to consume. Both aspartame and acesulfame potassium receive big Xs, which indicate the ingredient is something to "AVOID. Unsafe in amounts consumed or is very poorly tested and not worth any risk." the Blue 1 artificial coloring used in at least one Crystal Light product (Immunity Cherry Pomegranate) is on CSPI's X list, and the commonly used Red 40 and Yellow 5 are to be used with caution, as CSPI deems them not fully tested.

Of course, Crystal Light is far from the only product to contain these artificial sweeteners and colors. But weighing the potential health benefits of drinking Crystal Light against the potential harm, though perhaps small, makes me wonder why people would take the risk. I'll get my 20 percent more water from...water.

Opinions vary as to how much water we need to drink in a day; the standard advice to drink 8 daily 8-ounce glasses is an okay guideline, though not one supported by scientific evidence. In any case, drinking enough so you don't feel thirsty and your urine comes out pale yellow should suffice.

Do you think you drink enough water? Do you need to add stuff to it to make it palatable? Speak up in the comments section!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right?  
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Comments

OK, Jennifer, normally I really enjoy it when you call out misleading ads. But you kinda missed this one. First, you seem to treat CSPI as gospel. They're an interesting group, but they're not exactly unbiased.

Second, I do know a lot of women who complain about the taste of water. Me, I've got nice tap water and am perfectly happy to drink it. But I have to say, when I was pregnant, I could not tolerate even some bottled waters; it was really a struggle to find something that didn't taste off. That gave me a new appreciation for women who claim that plain water tastes bad.

Would it be better for women to drink just straight tap water? Sure. But some women won't. And I'd suspect those women are Crystal Light's target audience! So is it really misleading for Crystal Light to advertise to those women in a way that basically says, we get it, we know you're concerned about getting enough water, and look, women who drink us do drink more water? Given that some women aren't going to drink plain water, is Crystal Light a worse choice than, say, soda or juice?

Honestly, my real concern with all of this isn't whether Crystal Light is the best way to get you the water you need -- it's with the whole concept that we "need" to strap ourselves to a camel to be adequately hydrated. The "studies" that supposedly established the recommendations are from the 1940s-50s -- and those recommendations were designed to included water in the foods we eat. This whole industry focus on what adequate hydration levels are has zero scientific backing as far as I can tell.

Posted by: laura33 | July 24, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

It's too bad that his can't be the guideline: "drinking enough so you don't feel thirsty and your urine comes out pale yellow" or clear.

If tap water "tastes" bad, get a filter or filtered pitcher. For the cost/benefit, none are that expensive.

We'd all do better to drink more water...and only water.

and specifically re Crystal Light - it's shocking (to me) that people don't realize they can make lemonade with lemon juice and sugar...and make it as sweet or tart as you like.

oh..and you could even flavor your water with frozen fruit.

Posted by: robjdisc | July 24, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

So don't drink Crystal Light. Folks like you who act superior, just because you don't require the dietary aids that some of us do, only puts you in a minority. And as likely to die as young or old as the rest of us.

Posted by: MissV | July 24, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I don't know about drinking more water, but I would be curious to know if these women are eating more food. I have seen studies that show that people who drink soda with nutrasweet tend to eat more, and also that artificial colors and flavors can stimulate appetite. Bright colors and strong flavors are things that our brains associate with nutritions - real nutrition, not just a few synthetic vitamins. What happens when your body is expecting one thing and it gets something else?

Posted by: jackaroe | July 24, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

My willingness to drink tap water has depended greatly on the water available. In Chicago? Not a problem. In Ann Arbor? yeech. Filtered it if possible. Wasn't a big fan of Vegas water either. From airport water fountains? Varies a whole heck of a lot. I know what you mean about adding lemon, but sometimes it just isn't practical to carry around lemon (or cucumber) slices while out and about or while traveling. Crystal Light is available in travel packs, and I can certainly see people carrying those with them to make available tap water taste better.

And maybe, they just like the flavor. I'm a big fan of tea, which is essentially flavored water.

Finally, CSPI may have issues with Aspartame, but neither FDA nor the European Food Safety Authority (as of 2006 anyway) do. I'll go with the regulatory agencies on this one, I think.

Posted by: kickabout | July 24, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Here's what webmd.com says about aspartame:

"Dozens of studies in people and animals have tested for effects possibly related to aspartame. The majority of these studies show that things such as headaches, seizures, and mental and emotional problems didn't occur with aspartame more often than with placebo, even at doses many times higher than anyone would likely ever consume. Large epidemiological studies haven't found a link between aspartame and cancer. A study of about 500,000 people, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, compared those who drank beverages containing aspartame with those who didn't. It found that people who drank increasing amounts of beverages containing aspartame did not have a greater risk for lymphomas, leukemias, or brain cancer. Another study looked at data from a large survey done by the National Institutes of Health. The survey included detailed information on 1,888 cases of leukemia or lymphomas and 315 cases of brain cancer. The researchers found no link between aspartame consumption and those cancers."

Unlike CSPI, webmd.com is not a lefty group that seems Frankenstein monsters everywhere simply because a substance has a chemical name.

As for your comment about acesulfame potassium, that you don't know anything about it and don't want to, you're allegedly writing a column entitled HEALTH NEWS. Is sticking your head in the sand and refusing to perform a little research too much to ask of you? Acesulfame potassium, usually marketed as Sunette, is one of the four artificial sweeteners that the American Diabetes Assocation approves for use by diabetics. One of the other four is, you guessed it, aspartame (Splenda).

You should really stop being afraid of something with a chemical name and engage in a little research if you're going to hold yourself out as a health columnist. If I want to read junk science, there's always the tabloids.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 24, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Ho hum...here we go yet again. I'm getting really weary of overweight people looking for the latest cure for their obesity. Jennifer is saying that she is being discriminatory about the chemicals she puts in her body. That aspartame is marketed as an innocuous ingredient, which it is not. (Have any of you tried stevia?) As I was watching a documentary on the Nazi death prisons of WWII, it dawned on me that there sure weren't any fat people in those horribly brutal prisons. Has it occurred to the overweight that the problem might have a simple solution: keep the fork out of the mouth? The media is full of all kinds of panaceas for fat...very few of which put the onus on the fat person herself/himself. It boils down to lack of discipline, probably not only in eathing, but in other behavior as well....and then looking for something outside to solve the problem so we don't have to take responsibility. Call obesity a disease, and then Big Pharma can get its foot in the door and con people as well, while making millions.

Posted by: yomama248 | July 24, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

WashingtonDame: Just a quick correction (I think you might have just made a typo) that Splenda isn't the same thing as aspartame. The scientific name for Splenda is sucralose. Aspartame is marketed as NutraSweet.

Posted by: gmg22 | July 24, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Obviously the person writing this article has never been in a place where the water tastes rotten and is foul with or without lemon.
My doctor has me drinking 1 gallon of water per day to hydrade me and an extra amount (oz for oz) of any caffeine I might ingest (coffee, tea, cola, etc.).
I have been advised to drink 64 oz (i/2 gal) of water before any physical therapy where I receive treatments for my leg muscles.
I would believe my doctor over the author of this article.

Posted by: diamond2 | July 24, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

To get back to Jennifer's original question...

I find that I never drink enough water, and adding something (Crystal Light, tea bag, whatever) gets me to drink it. And at work, plain water just makes me crave coffee (i.e. something with flavor) but adding something to my water, even lemon slices, helps curb the coffee craving. But as someone else pointed out, it's inconvenient and messy to carry around a lemon or cucumber; the Crystal Light packets are highly portable.

For those concerned about its effects, I've often used only half the packet in a bottle of water and saved the other half for later or added it to a second bottle of water.

Posted by: librmt | July 24, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

"WashingtonDame: Just a quick correction (I think you might have just made a typo) that Splenda isn't the same thing as aspartame. The scientific name for Splenda is sucralose. Aspartame is marketed as NutraSweet.

Posted by: gmg22 | July 24, 2009 12:01 PM"

gmg22, you're correct. Thanks for catching that.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 24, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I also have trouble enjoying tap water or sometimes even plain bottled water at our office. I recently tried a product called True Lime, which I found at my Safeway. The ingredients seemed very simple to me (citric acid, dextrose, lime juice, lime oil, and ascorbic acid) and it does make my water taste more interesting. It comes in a little packet, the size of a sugar packet and has no calories or artificial sweeteners. I was worried that it would taste too tart, but I didn't think so. It just made my water tastier. There's also a True Lemon, and I'm going to try that next. I also drink a lot of iced tea when I'm home, that I make myself so that I know what's in it.

Posted by: denisesc1 | July 24, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Drinking water "right out of the tap" is not a very healthy thing to do. Have you checked to see what the water provider adds to the water so that it passes "government guidelines"?

My family has not had tap water in two decades. We have the top water treatment system in the market, certified by the independent NSF. It also uses UV light to kill any bad stuff in there. Too much to add in this post, but it also does not smell like chlorine or any other nasty stuff.

Guests always comment on our great-tasting water. No matter what your provider claims, the water in this area is crummy. Growing up in Baltimore, the water from Loch Raven reservoir is vastly superior to any I have ever had, next to my treatment system.

Posted by: edcclub71 | July 24, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Yomama248, how is the view from that high horse you're on? How is encouraging people to drink more water "looking for the latest cure for obesity"? Every legitimate weight loss plan encourages the user to drink more water. Weight Watchers includes drinking water in the good health guidelines you follow. Any doctor will tell you that drinking water helps you to lose weight. It helps you to feel full so that you don't overeat. When you were watching your Nazi documentary you didn't see any people of normal weight in there either, did you? And do you really get your health advice from shows like that? What a twisted, smug, mean spirited, petty little "person" you must be.

Maybe you need a cookie.

Posted by: onlytheshadowknows1 | July 24, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who think tap water is the gold standard here's an article from this very paper about what is in the water. Think of this when you're patting yourself on the back for avoiding aspartame and drinking tap water.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/03/09/ST2008030901877.html

From the article:
"The Washington area's drinking water contains trace amounts of six commonly used drugs that typically turn up in wastewater and cannot be filtered out by most treatment systems"

"The pharmaceuticals -- an anti-seizure medication, two anti-inflammatory drugs, two kinds of antibiotics and a common disinfectant -- were found in very small concentrations in the water supply that serves more than 1 million people in the District, Arlington County, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County. But scientists say the health effects of long-term exposure to such drugs are not known."

"Pharmaceuticals, along with trace amounts of caffeine, were found in the drinking water supplies of 24 of 28 U.S. metropolitan areas tested."

"In addition to caffeine, the drugs found in water treated by the Washington Aqueduct include the well-known pain medications ibuprofen and naproxen, commonly found in Aleve. But there were also some lesser-known drugs: carbamazepine, an anti-convulsive to reduce epileptic seizures and a mood stabilizer for treating bipolar disorders; sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic that can be used for humans and animals in treating urinary tract and other infections; and monensin, an antibiotic typically given to cattle. In addition, the study uncovered traces of triclocarban, a disinfectant used in antibacterial soaps. "

Posted by: onlytheshadowknows1 | July 24, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Well, when I said tap water, I didn't add that mine is first filtered -- but I think when some people say tap water in this discussion, they are just meaning not bottled water.

Posted by: denisesc1 | July 24, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

This person writes a Health Column? And the Washington Post wonders why it won't even be used as birdcage filler at the Huffington Post...where do I begin?

First this throw-away sentiment:
"I'm all for vitamins and minerals, but I'd just as soon get mine from whole fruits, vegetables and other real foods."

Jennifer, you should know that while it's easy to get enough micronutrients from food if one maintains a healthy diet, most people are not as unfailingly perfect as you and come up way short; they'll eat two or three servings of fruits and veggies per day rather than the recommended five.

Also, premenopausal women need more iron than children or the elderly, the elderly have a harder time obtaining adequate amounts of vitamins from natural sources, postmenopausal women and young children need calcium. Ergo, vitamin supplements.

Next, this nugget: "The Center for Science in the Public Interest maintains a list of food additives that advises as to whether they're safe to consume."

Do you even know what the CSPI is? As a partisan advocacy group, they happen to also be in favor of all Americans adopting a "plant-based diet" and the minimum drinking age of 21, despite mountains of research that raises questions about such policies.

Then this: "But weighing the potential health benefits of drinking Crystal Light against the potential harm, though perhaps small, makes me wonder why people would take the risk."

This is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen written. You wrote, not three sentences before, that the potential for "harm" - reported by your own alarmist CSPI - lies in the fact that these additives have not been fully tested. What is the "risk" for people then? Right, there is no risk. Regardless, given your logic, I bet you can't understand why children eat hot dogs and working people drink coffee either.

I also echo many of the sentiments expressed by others posting comments.

I opened this link prepared to get nuanced and useful information on the potential benefits and real harms in finding creative ways of drinking more water. I would have been better off skipping your ill-researched article and heading straight for the comments.

Posted by: treeohtwo | July 24, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Why pick on Crystal Light?

There's a multitude of no-cal drink mixes that are essentially the same as Crystal Light.

As for their ingredients, it revolves around the concept of making money on something that costs very little to produce. Any soft drink essentially falls into the category of being "unhealthy", compared to glass of cold water.

But water doesn't have any real taste, and that's why most people would rather consume a soft drink.

Maybe the folks who make Crystal Light will take a hint and market a clear, sucralose-sweetened product with only natural flavorings. It'd probably sell.

Posted by: dlkimura | July 24, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

8x8 is BS and so is maligning a product that may help people stay hydrated. I agree plain water is best. But...I know that when I really need hydration, I often do not drink enough plain water. Adding a little crystal light to water often is all I need to stimulate my thirt. I can greedily guzzle glasses of fake crystal light lemonade...much more than I can force plain water. So...forget any claims. If it helps stay properly hydrated, it is good.

Posted by: GaryJean | July 24, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I hate drinking water. Noting fills my heart with dread than looking at a full half gallon bottle of water, wondering how I'm going to choke this tasteless stuff down. I would go weeks without drinking a single glass of water.....I would feel exhausted and be late to work and think that I just needed a few more cups of coffee. One day, friend gave me a packet of "energy" crystal light to try. I halved the packet and had six cups of water that day. I had so much energy, that I cleaned the house from top to bottom and caught up on several weeks of work projects that I had let linger due to an inability to concentrate and focus. I started having regular bowel moments after 2 more days of water drinking. I had never felt thirsty, but I was litterally killing myself slowly by not drinking water....and Crystal light got me started in drinking my 8 cups a day.

So, for those of you who can stomach tap water, do it. I like bottled water (Dasani!!!!!) but in today's economy, can't afford to pay $2 for a 20 oz bottle, three times a day. Filtered water didn't do it for me either. Given the choice between dying from dehydration due to my hatred of plain tap water and drinking some water downed Crystal light to add a LITTLE flavor to my drink, I'll suffer the later and take my chances with the cancer. We're all going to die sometime any way,

Posted by: changingfaces | July 24, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Here's to 'nice water' versus powdered water!

Posted by: kkneedham | July 25, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) is a neurotoxin.

Tires have been recalled for less.

The FDA was forced to reveal,many years ago, 92 symptoms reported by consumers, from headache to seizure to death, No. 77 on the list.

The CSPI recently changed its mind about aspartame... after they saw the impeccable studies done by the Ramazzini Cancer Institute in Bologna, Italy. Dr. Morando Soffritti, in an 8 year study found aspartame was a multi-carcinogen with female rats especially developing leukimia.

The FDA and the European Union are stacked with paid industry supporters of this deadly chemical.

For anyone who has Rosacea, the red face rash, I promise you if you stop chewing gum with aspartame or drinking diet soda, or the Crystal Lite junk,it will disappear. So will your dry eyes. Average weight loss after abstinence is 19 pounds.

Don't believe me. Try it. Might be hard because the 10% methanol (wood alcohol) in aspartame is addictive.
Here are some useful websites. www.aspartamesafety.com and www.sweetpoison.com

Thanks for reading

Posted by: rightnote | July 25, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I've been a registered dietitian and consultant to the food/beverage industry for over 28 years and constantly remind everyone that absolutely all foods and beverages - including those with low/no calorie sweeteners - are perfectly fine in moderation. Since 2004, I've been conveying the NEW guidelines for Hydration: All beverages count, not just plain water, and men need at least 13 cups fluids daily and women need at least 9 cups fluid daily.
Artifical sweeteners are completey safe and I'm thrilled they've helped me enjoy great-tasting beverages while maintaining my weight since the 70's. Here are some science-based facts about aspartame- more in-depth information about all sweeteners - and hydration - can be found at the Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness website:

Aspartame has more than 200 scientific studies confirming its safety as a low-calorie sweetener
Aspartame has been used for more than 20 years and is approved in more than 100 countries, around the world
Aspartame does not increase hunger in those who use it; to the contrary, studies indicate it might be an effective tool as part of an overall weight management program
There is no credible link between consumption of aspartame related to the nervous system and behavior, nor any other symptom or illness

Kim Galeaz, RD

Posted by: KimGaleazRD | July 27, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

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