Wanna get Hydrated?

Today we take a look at a story that broke a few days ago by Mother Jones magazine, great investigative journalism magazine. (My only gripe is that there should be more content!) MoJo’s blog post, Do Sports Drinks Really Work?, discussed a recent series of studies by prestigious British medical journal BMJ (formerly “British Medical Journal”). Published on the eve of the 2012 Olympics in London, the BMJ discusses the viability of sports drinks. According to MoJo, “makers of drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have spent millions in research and marketing in recent decades to persuade sports and medical professionals, not to mention the rest of us suckers, that a primal instinct—the sensation of thirst—is an unreliable guide for deciding when to drink.” So the sports drink industry has been trying to prove that thirst is simply unreliable as a predictor of and predecessor to dehydration. We should simply drink endless amounts of liquid to keep ourselves hydrated–but not water, but rather the magical formula manufactured by multinational companies such as PepsiCo (Gatorade) and Coca-Cola (Power Ade).

Promoting this idea is exceptionally convenient for a corporation looking to make a profit on consumers who feel they not only  must purchase sports drinks in order to be hydrated, but drink lots of them in order to stay hydrated. Central to the BMJ studies were two questions: (1) Is pre-hydration necessary before strenuous activity; and (2) Is the excess of salts and sugars in sports drinks necessary, or is water fine? Answer: No, stick to thirst as an indicator of when to hydrate, and water is just fine. Furthermore, overhydration presents a much greater health risk than dehydration.

Great news for the rest of us. I’ll keep avoiding sports drinks, and hopefully people who hear about the study who do abuse sports drinks, stop immediately. If you stop and think about it, it’s really quite amazing what these large corporations have done–sports drinks are an approximately $1.6 billion business in the United States. Millions of people drink a manufactured product in order to satisfy a basic human need. And the thing most useful to quench our primordial thirst–good ol’ H2O–is viewed with derision and contempt (to prove my point). But is the news getting out?

Absolutely not. It is now three days after the MoJo article, and the mainstream/corporate media has said absolutely nothing about it. In fact, a Google news search yielded two full pages of articles, not all of which were in English. Non-profit news site MinnPost.com published a recap of the study. Furthermore, the leading conservative newspaper of Spain, ABC, published a lenghty article outlining many important points of the study, including the dangers of overhydration, financial links between drink companies and sport associations, and the adverse health effects of the contents of sports drinks. Furthermore, Der Spiegel, a leading German newsmagazine, reports: “Scientifically the alleged benefits [of sports drinks] is almost null… these products work best on the athlete’s wallet.”

I did find one story reminiscent of how multinational corporate products are treated in the United States media. In a recent article on Yahoo! Sports, it was reported that NFL cornerback Johnathan Joseph really likes the Gatorade situation in Houston. Good for Joesph, but will he think twice after hearing about the BMJ’s report? Happy hydrating people.


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