Smartwater Is Now Making Alkaline And Antioxidant Waters, But Are They Really Better For You?

The company believes people want all sorts of water.

There's great news for people who think Smartwater will make them smart: The brand is now launching alkaline water and antioxidant water to make you, I don't know, want more water.

Americans are drinking a lot of bottled water these days — we took down 13.7 billion gallons of bottled water in 2017, and it surpassed soda as the top-selling beverage by volume — and Smartwater owner Coca-Cola wants to take advantage of this trend as soda becomes less popular. The obvious solution — make new kinds of water!

Smartwater, which hit over $1 billion in annual sales in 2015, is Coca-Cola's most profitable water brand and is now moving deeper into so-called enhanced waters, which are infused with anything from vitamins to oxygen and hydrogen. Smartwater's sales are up 3.4% year to date compared the same period in 2017.

"What is alkaline water?" you may ask, which is a fair and good question. In general, it's water with a higher pH level than neutral (neutral is 7), meaning it is less acidic. Smartwater Alkaline will have a pH of 9 or higher, and it will be "manufactured using a unique process that includes selective separation and removal of components of water," according to a Coca-Cola spokesperson.

As for Smartwater Antioxidant, the company adds selenium to the water.

Both alkaline and antioxidant Smartwater taste the same as regular Smartwater, and neither cost extra.

Now, you may also be wondering "Why anyone would want alkalinized water or water with antioxidants?" — which is also a fair and good question. The answer, of course, is perceived health benefits — some claim alkaline water has anti-aging effects and antioxidants that are known to prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.

To what extent people should expect any sort of health benefit from drinking enhanced waters is another story. Dietitian Cynthia Sass told BuzzFeed News, "Alkaline water is popular, but there is very limited research on its potential benefits." One recent study about alkaline water and cancer incidence and treatment concluded that "there is almost no actual research to either support or disprove" alkaline water promotion.

As far as antioxidants, Sass recommends "getting them from whole, fresh foods, rather than isolated antioxidants added to water. Antioxidants tend to work best in synergy with the other nutrients and antioxidants found in whole foods."

Not that Smartwater will be making any particular health claims itself. Such marketing would attract the attention of regulators such as the Food and Drug Administration, which have careful rules about making health claims.

Instead, Coca-Cola is broadly promoting Smartwater Alkaline "for daily fitness" and the antioxidant version "for daily well-being," which are mostly true and also fairly meaningless things to claim. Still, it'll probably come in handy if you're thirsty.

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