As is so frequently the case, a TikTok health trend is making many people raise safety concerns.
“Watertok” is a trend where people share “water” recipes. It seems innocuous. The water-based drinks stretch the definition of water. While the trend is meant to make people drink more throughout the day, people question whether it’s healthy.
Women with large cups create concoctions of water and flavor powders. Famous recipes include birthday cake, peach ring and pina colada. They are mostly made from zero-calorie and sugar-free syrups. But they are all chemicals.
The videos were initially targeted at weight-loss surgery patients. People having weight loss procedures have to drink a lot of water before and after surgery. The videos were intended to suggest ways to make it less boring for them as they are on a liquid diet for five days. However, they slipped into the mainstream TikTok where it was picked up as a wellness trend and by people with eating disorders looking to replace meals with extremely flavored water.
Dentists also aren’t fans of the trend. The syrups and powders people add are usually sugar-free. Still, they are filled with citric acid, artificial sweeteners and additives that can cause tooth decay and erode enamel.
Moreover, the drinks are vibrant colors from food dyes in the powders and syrups. Dr. Sam Jethwa, vice president of the British Association for Cosmetic Dentistry, said, “Colorings in products such as these can have a staining effect on teeth which can cause long-term discoloration.”
Some doctors don’t like the trend. “Artificial sweetener or flavoring ingredients such as those used in powders and syrups to be mixed with water can lead to many health issues including cardiovascular disease or [blood sugar concerns],” said Dr. Al-Imran Khan and doctor at Mercuri Health. He recommended adding slices of lemon or other natural ingredients to water if people want flavor.
Silvia Micheletti, a nutritionist at Rainbow Labs, said that people need to be careful about what they add to water. The marketing of the powders and syrups can be misleading. “Look at the ingredients rather than the calories. In fact, these artificial flavorings contain high levels of maltodextrins which are highly processed carbohydrates that are derived from starch. They are commonly used as food additives in many processed foods as a thickener, bulking agent, or sweetener. However, maltodextrins are quite similar to sugar and can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, which may lead to health problems for some people such as weight gain, [blood sugar concerns], fatty liver disease, atherosclerosis, mood swing, fatigue, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease.”
Dietician Dr. Caitlin Hall is concerned about what all the artificial sweeteners will do to a person’s microbiome. “Frequent consumption of artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) can… have a highly damaging effect on the delicate gut microbiome.” She instead recommended drinking coconut water, herbal tea or kombucha.
Other experts see the trend as beneficial overall. Jeff Stanley is an obesity medicine specialist. He said, “In a perfect world, [people] would be drinking just regular water, but we know some people just don’t like it or don’t drink enough. So, adding in a bit of [flavoring] can be helpful.”
If you are enjoying this craze, the best thing you can do is drink your water cocktails with a straw, rinse your mouth when you are done, alternate with regular water and brush your teeth twice a day. Plus, always read all the ingredients and nutritional facts on what you are adding to your water. Once you’ve put enough things in, it’s no longer water!