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Have the Benefits of Coconut Water Been Overstated?

We’ve been led to believe that coconut water is healthy, hydrating and packed with electrolytes? But is that true or just clever marketing? Well, it’s probably more on the side of marketing, according to a recent piece in the The New York Times, Coconut Water Changes Its Claims.”

The story is a quick and fascinating look at how some coconut water producers misled consumers with lofty claims about the drink’s potential health benefits. And why lately, those marketing strategies have changed.

We’ve talked about coconut water before on the Drip Drop blog. And we highlighted why coconut water isn’t ideal for hydration because it contains very little sodium. But we wanted to take the chance to dig a little deeper and examine coconut water’s ability to reverse dehydration:

MYTH #1: Coconut Water’s Electrolyte Content Helps Hydrate

Coconut water does contain a lot of one specific electrolyte – potassium. In fact, some brands contain 550 mg or more per serving, which is more than you’d find in a banana. Although potassium can help athletes avoid cramps, without added sodium, potassium doesn’t maximize hydration.

Here’s why:  The right sodium-glucose ratio activates the co-transport system in the small intestine, which speeds up the rate water is absorbed by the body. (You can read about the co-transport system on our blog.) Plus, sodium can help the body retain water more efficiently and it encourages you to drink more.

One 2012 study found that coconut water helped hydrate during light exercise like plain water, but for longer work-outs, its low-sodium content made it an ineffective hydration drink.

MYTH #2: Coconut Water Hydrates Better than Plain Water

Compared to bottled water, there isn’t scientific evidence that coconut water provides better hydration. In fact, a 2012 study, cited in the Times piece, found that following an hour of exercise, coconut water and bottled water were as effective at rehydrating as a sports drink.

These misleading hydration claims were one reason one of the largest coconut water producers settled a 2012 class action lawsuit.

MYTH #3: Coconut Water Speeds Up Your Metabolism

The truth is dehydration causes your metabolism to slow down, which means drinking more fluids can help speed it up. But compared to plain water, there isn’t evidence that coconut water helps speed metabolism more efficiently. Instead, preventing dehydration and exercise are the most effective strategies for speeding metabolism.

Drip Drop is a hydration powder that provides a balanced ratio of electrolytes designed to reverse dehydration.

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