So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hydration On Knowledge, Not Marketing

Last summer, when we were in Singapore's Tanjong Pagar district, we walked through a fruit market. Vendors were selling, among the durians (horrible!) and papaya (delicious!) green coconuts sliced at the top to fit drinking straws, which I assumed was for coconut milk.

Suzanne, in her goodie bag from the ING Miami Half-Marathon, found a small carton of coconut water. My initial assumption was the beverage sample was for a local concern; considering our proximity to the Caribbean I thought it might be a product sold in the local groceries or bodegas.

Fast forward three weeks to yesterday evening. I felt the compulsion to take my loving wife out for a bite to eat, partly because it was St. Valentine's Day, partly because I did not want to return home immediately after our language class. I've seen my d-a-w-g try to comprehend me babbling Japanese verb conjugates for a thirty-minute period. He looks like he understands every word, but does not know what to think.

Some dining establishments are more amenable to conversation than others - one of our faves, believe it or not, is a place called Beef O'Brady's. The nice thing about Beef's is they have enough television sets playing a variety of sporting events. Suzanne can watch basketball; I let my borderline A.D.D. run its course and try to watch everything else. Beef's also puts us with our interesting discussions, which can range from physiology to economics to familial gossip, depending on who's not drinking at the moment.

This time Suzanne saw an article in the Wall Street Journal magazine, which reminded her of the coconut water drink in her ING goodie bag. She said she liked the taste of the beverage and it seemed to not hinder her recovery after the half marathon. She's not one to tout or maintain devotion to a particular product. If she says something really positive about a product I'm likely to give it a second look.

As we read the WSJ article we learned the increasing demand for coconut water has led to a recent leap on the bandwagon by the usual band of soda sellers.

What's the best way to figure out whether something might possibly be snake oil?

- If a singer markets the product, or owns a share of a product supply chain, it's probably a good idea to give the item a wider berth.
- If the advertising tag line sounds like something you might read on a bumper sticker, walk away...there's nothing to see here.
- If the marketing campaign includes the terms "super-," "mega-," or "extreme," the odds are good there will probably a lawsuit in the not-too-distant future.

And in the case of one maker of coconut water drink, a suit has already been settled.

A proposed nationwide class action suit was filed the other week after an independent study revealed one coconut water product didn't contain the electrolyte levels indicated on the label. While there might be some sort of electrolyte balance or recovery benefit from drinking coconut water, there's no scientific proof at this time it's a more effective means of hydration (or cramp prevention - which has more to do with signals traveling through the nervous system to the muscles than other possible etiologies) than other less-pricey sports drinks.

So, while it might be a good hydration product for those persons who prefer to drink 20% of the calories (50 per 8 ounce serving) of the most common sports drink with the addition of dietary fiber, it's more difficult to tell whether the amount of electrolytes stated on the label (or in the shell, for that matter) merit the hyperbole.

Just because the big boys jump on the bandwagon it's not going to make the product any better. Only more popular.

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