Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Powerade ION4 - making you wetter than a wet thing in lots of wet stuff.


Update: Jan 2014, ASA found against GlaxoSmithKline UK Ltd when they made a similar claim of "hydrates and fuels you better than water" finding that it "did not appear on the list of authorised health claims in respect of carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks"

Update: Jan 2012, ASA found in favour of Coca-Cola when two people make complaints about this advertising campain.

New, improved[1], Powerade ION4 [Subs: Na, Ca, Mg, K] [Sub: Contains carbohydrates] replenishes fuel and 4 of the minerals lost in sweat.

[Sub: Preparation]

[Sub: Determination]

[Sub: Perspiration]

[Sub: Hydration]

Powerade ION4, hydrates better than water.

Keep sweating.

Presenting Coca-Cola's new and improved[1] sports drink. They'll be sponsoring the Olympics (2012) dontcha know.

However it's not exactly new[1]. From the US website[current - there's a video there that didn't make it to the archive]:

In 2009, POWERADE® sports scientists created ION4®, which revolutionized the sports drink. ION4® is an advanced electrolyte system that is in POWERADE® to help replenish four electrolytes lost in sweat.

I wouldn't call a 2 year old product "new." Certainly not in the context of advertising. So that's a load of bollocks right from the start.

Back to the UK advert, they claim to "hydrate better than water." Sounds a tad spurious. Lets look at what it's supposed to 'help' with, or mitigate - dehydration.

The medical definition of dehydration (or hypohydration) is:

[...] the loss of water and salts essential for normal body function.

There are various stages/severity of dehydration:
Mild dehydration is the loss of no more than 5% of the body's fluid. Loss of 5-10% is considered moderate dehydration. Severe dehydration (loss of 10-15% of body fluids) is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care.
Causes of dehydration?
Strenuous activity, excessive sweating, high fever, and prolonged vomiting or diarrhea
Symptoms of dehydration at any age include cracked lips, dry or sticky mouth, lethargy, and sunken eyes. A person who is dehydrated cries without shedding tears and does not urinate very often. The skin is less elastic than it should be and is slow to return to its normal position after being pinched.
Increased fluid intake and replacement of lost electrolytes are usually sufficient to restore fluid balances in patients who are mildly or moderately dehydrated. For individuals who are mildly dehydrated, just drinking plain water may be all the treatment that is needed. Adults who need to replace lost electrolytes may drink sports beverages or consume a little additional salt.

So. Yes. If you're MILDLY dehydrated, Powerade, MAY be used to replace some salts lost during heavy sweating during exercise. (If you've lost quite a bit of fluid/your electrolyte balance is way off however I'd suggest you visit a doctor/hospital rather than drink this as a treatement.)

Or you could just drink water and, possibly, eat a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. Doing both, of course will also "hydrate you better than water (alone.)"

I think I know which will probably be cheaper. (I can't find any ION4 online at the moment, but from Ocado, 4x500ml bottles Powerade Cherry: £3.49. 12x25g Walker's Ready Salted: £2.65)

So while their claim to "hydrate better than water" isn't entirely bollocks, the way they present it - as something wonderful that cannot be achieved by anything else - is.

On the specific salts/minerals they mention - your body is adaptable. It can get temporarily lower on them without danger and can obtain all sorts of vitamins and minerals and salts from your (hopefully varied) diet. If you get a little low on some of them, your body will catch up. If you're getting dangerously low on some of them then Powerade isn't going to help you.

I'll probably do a post on the snake-oil that are OTC, self medicated, mineral supplements in general (or some specific ones) sometime.

[1] Come now. It can't be both. If it's new, then there isn't an old thing to improve upon. If it's improved then there must have been an older thing. Or as one Yahoo Answerer succinctly put it:
It's improving on the perfectly good thing that you own that the ad agency wants you to now think of as junk, so you'll buy the product they are pitching.


  1. I just saw the advert, had the thought, did the Google search then didn't bother writing the blog because it's already done. :D

    1. 1) It's wonderful that this blog is rating highly for searches for this ad - what exactly did you search for?

      2) Are they *still* peddling this bollocks? I wrote this a year ago!

    2. Hey, I didn't notice your reply back in March. I actually just remembered this advert and Googled for a source on it, and coincidentally found your post again - search term this time being "Powerade ION4 better than water".

      I showed it to a colleague and we were amused to see me in the comments; only then did I remember.

      Yeah, it was airing quite a bit in March; pretty sure the campaign's running because of the Olympics.
      We DID also find this, though: http://www.myh2pro.com/_blog/Hydration_Blog/post/How_can_a_sports_drink_possibly_hydrate_better_than_water/

    3. From that link:

      "The electrolyte responsible for this [beneficial fluid] retention is sodium...."

      That won't go down well with all the nannies encouraging us to avoid salt at all costs....

  2. And while I'm commentating on year-old blog posts - I never did get round to the OTC snake oil stuff...