Thursday, October 31, 2013


Human requirement for water is still a controversial subject with no unanimity among health pundits. While 2 liters a day is considered essential there is no clarity as to whether this quantity has to be consumed over and above the moisture that is present in daily diet. The food consumed varies from culture to culture but basically most cooked foods will have a moisture level averaging about 50%. Considering that the daily calorie requirement of 2000 kCal will have to be taken through foods, considerable water enters the body through the food. It is indisputable that water is needed both for physiological and thermo regulation and some quantity has to be imbibed in pure form. The phenomenon of thirst is a part of human body's signaling system to compensate for water loss due to perspiration and evaporation and consumption of water based products like juices, soft drinks and others contributes to water "make up". It is during the last five decades that beverage industry started exploiting the thirst phenomenon for commercial gain through natural and synthetic beverages with diverse flavors and the explosive growth of sugary beverages is telling on the health of the population as reflected by the fast developing obesity epidemic in many of the financially healthy nations. In spite of global campaigns against these non-nutritive high calorie drinks, not much progress was visible in curbing their consumption. It is against this background that one has to welcome the news, reported recently, about a new trend of declining "soda" (sugary beverages) consumption in countries like the US which is considered a good omen. Here is more about this development.

"Sales of water in standard lightweight plastic bottles grew at a rate of more than 20 percent every quarter from 1993 to 2005, he said. The growth has continued since, but now it has settled into percentages within the high single digits. If the estimated drinking of water from the household tap is included, water consumption began exceeding that of soda in the mid-2000s. That significant shift has posed a tough challenge for the Coca-Cola Company and rival PepsiCo in recent years. While both companies sell bottled water lines, Dasani for Coke and Aquafina for Pepsi, they have had trouble establishing dominance in the more profitable business of so-called enhanced waters — including flavored and carbonated waters and those with added vitamins and minerals — where a horde of new beverage companies like TalkingRain, Hint water and Fruit2O are giving them a run for the money. "Given where pricing has gone, I would assume that on the average 24 pack of bottled water, Coke and Pepsi are selling at break-even at best," said John Faucher, who tracks the beverage and household products businesses at JPMorgan Chase. "The one thing keeping them in plain, old bottled water is that both have a very large and highly profitable single-serve business in it." Plain bottled waters are little more than purified tap water with a sprinkle of minerals tossed in, which makes the business one of producing bottles and filling them. Factors as varied as innovations in bottling technology that have helped drive down the price of water as well as continuing concern about obesity and related diseases are also driving the trend. A recent study by North Dakota State University, for instance, used dietary intake data collected by the federal government to draw correlations between decreased consumption of soda from 1999 through 2010 and improvements in the biomarkers that indicated cholesterol and other chronic diseases. A study by Coca-Cola asserted that the government's data, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, was flawed, but that had not stopped public health officials from encouraging greater consumption of beverages with less sugar. Last month, Michelle Obama heavily endorsed water, teaming up with Coke, Pepsi and NestlĂ© Waters, among others, to persuade Americans to drink more of it. Health advocates complained that Mrs. Obama had capitulated to corporate partners by not explaining the benefits of water over the sodas they sell and that her initiative promoted even greater use of plastic bottles when she could have just recommended turning on the tap".

It is ironic that water, one of the cheapest materials in this planet, considered God's gift to the residents of earth, has now become a money spinning business with billions of bottles of processed water flooding the markets in every country! There was a time when the water coming through the taps of toilets in a country like the US was fit for consumption because of the water treatment plants working in each and every city in that country. Same applied to Europe also and a recent attempt by a city in Italy to brand its tap water reflects the mania among the citizens to go for bottled water incurring significant expenses for the consumer. Of course a bottle of water is always a convenience and this factor has modified the human behavior to shun tap water and buy processed and packed water. It is rather unfortunate that even in a country like India with half its population considered very poor there is a roaring market for bottled water though the citizen cannot be blamed for this craze due terrible fear about the safety of the so called piped water supply in almost all urban areas. Some time one gets the feeling that holding a bottle of attractively packed water bottle is becoming a status symbol among Indians! While bottled water industry is obviously serving the community by providing clean and safe water, the blame for such a skewed development must be borne squarely by the civic bodies, state and central governments for neglecting this fundamental right of the citizen, viz access to safe water.    


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