In looking for my favorite Berry Burst carbonated water, I came across two beverages that intrigued me momentarily: Aquafina Plus and Fuze. You may have seen these drinks. Marketed by Pepsi and Coca-Cola respectively, they are vitamin enriched waters that are promoted as healthful alternatives to soft drinks and less boring than regular water. I thought, oooh, flavored water, let's check this out. Then I noticed something peculiar: no nutritional information anywhere.
Why is that? Because these products are vitamin enriched, they are classified by Health Canada as natural health products and nutritional information is actually prohibited from being displayed on the product. Well, if it's an NHP with vitamins in it, there must be no calories, just like multivitamins, right? And it's just flavored water like Berry Burst, so again, no calories, right? But if you look at the ingredients, sugar is listed. So what's the damage?
I had to dig pretty deep for this because the company's aren't just handing out this information. Both of these products contain roughly 100 calories each. Now, in fairness, this is not nearly as much as most soft drinks or even fruit juices for that matter. But the fact that this is not published in plain sight is alarming.
The average American consumes 500 calories per day in "beverage" calories. If you just cut out these calories, every North American would lose 50 pounds over the course of the year. The most nefarious aspect of beverage calories is that we tend not to compensate for them. Studies have shown that when a caloric beverage is consumed with a meal, there is no change in the total caloric value of solid food consumed.
So why are these enriched waters so concerning to me? I'm not concerned about the individual that would switch to them from an energy drink or a soft drink, because at least it'd be a step in the right direction. I'm concerned about someone like myself who just wanted a tasty alternative to water and figured because no calories were listed on the bottle, that no news is good news. If you drank even just one of these a day without compensating in the rest of your diet, you'd gain 10 pounds over a year. That's the kind of insidious weight gain that sticks.
I'm sorry, but I just can't agree with Health Canada allowing this product to be classified as a natural health product without also forcing an open reporting of the caloric content of the product. Just another reason I'm starting to think that the whole natural health products directorate is a bit of a shambles.