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Fortified Water: Vitamins And Minerals Enhance A Seven Thousand Year-Old Idea

Mar 11, 2008
Twenty years ago, the idea of buying bottle water would have been met with ridicule. Today, however, we consumers don't blink an eye at paying more for a bottle of water than one of milk. What we expect out of our water has similarly grown. We look for H2O enhanced with everything from vitamins to herbs and memory-enhancing supplements.

The idea of fortifying water to provide health-enhancing properties is as least as old as recorded human history, however. Over 7,000 years ago, man began pressing grapes and fermenting the juice into wine which we mixed with our water. Beyond its properties as a social lubricant, the alcohol in wine helped kill off microorganisms that lived in the water. Wine was able to be stored longer, and retained some of the vitamins and minerals of the source grape. Its medicinal qualities were recognized very early on, too, as a pain palliative, a disinfectant and a digestive supplement. In fact, the disciple Paul wrote to Timothy (Tim I, 5:23) "No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments." The health-bringing properties of wine were also exaggerated, though. Cleopatra dissolved pearls in wine for its reputed health benefits, and Romans put 'snake stones' (agate) in wine to combat snake bites.

Fruit juices were another predecessor of fortified waters. As far back as Biblical times, pomegranates and other juicy fruits were pressed and mixed with water for their carbs, vitamins, minerals and, of course, deliciousness. Lime and lemon juices were used to cure British sailor's scurvy, resulting from Vitamin C deficiency.

However, both of these drinks have downsides as well. The alcohol in wine can affect some people poorly, and the calories in both wine and fruit juice may be overabundant for the sedentary. The acidity in both can irritate tender stomachs.

These problems have led to the development of modern fortified waters, designed to provide the drinker nutrients without this excess baggage. The first such drink, Gatorade, was developed in the 1960s by physicians at the University of Florida to help quickly replenish carbs and electrolytes that the school's football players were losing during play.

As its popularity grew, other companies began to design other drinks with fortifications specific to different population needs, until today the value-added water market has grown into a $1.5 billion annual business. A seemingly endless of those drinks are now found on the shelves of virtually any store in the U.S., including sports drinks with carbs, water with stimulants such as caffeine, with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and probiotics. Some are supplemented with ginko and other herbs, essential fatty acids, and fluoride for cavity fighting. There are waters that claim to help the consumer achieve weight loss, grow hair, lower cholesterol, that provide brain nutrition, joint support, even improve breath. I wouldn't be surprised to see one that promises to help the consumer levitate. There is even a fortified water for dogs!

Critics of fortified water are concerned, however, that consumers may believe that they are receiving all their necessary vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements through their water consumption. This is not the case. Many drinks provide only a small portion of the daily recommended amounts of these nutrients. Also, for most of us, water consumption is an irregular affair; more on hot days, less on cool. Finally, these drinks are a very expensive source of these supplements compared to shopping online for discount vitamins, minerals or even discount herbs.

Replacing a regular regime of vitamin and mineral supplements with fortified water is not a good way to assure yourself of the steady, dependable supply of what your body needs to keep working smoothly. To be sure, drink water when your body wants water, but stick to your customary supplement schedule. You'll save money and gain peace of mind.
About the Author
James Dugan is a sought-after health and lifestyle expert. Nationally certified as a Professional Lifestyle and Fitness Consultant, he also holds a certificate in Vitamin Assessment and Herbal Counseling. He has written many articles for VitaNet Health Foods, http://vitanetonline.com/ which offers discount vitamins. Please use the link when reproducing article.
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