March 2011 television and press adverts for sports drinks Powerade ION 4 featured several people, including prominent UK athlete Jessica Ennis sweating heavily during a gym workout session.
“New improved Powerade ION4 replenishes fuel and four of the minerals lost in sweat,” claimed a voiceover; onscreen text claimed ‘contains carbohydrates’, while a bottle of the drink was shown with chemical element icons for sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
The final scene – and the one in question in light of these complaints – saw the participants drinking Powerade ION4, while the voiceover said: “Powerade ION4 hydrates better than water”.
An associated national press advert featured a testimonial from Ennis that stated “Gold isn’t the only mineral on my mind. Powerade ION4 replenishes fuel, fluids and four of the minerals I lose through sweat. So it hydrates me better than water.”
One viewer and reader challenged the hydration claims (versus water) in the television and press adverts respectively as misleading.
But queried by the ASA, Coca-Cola Great Britain (CCGB) said it could substantiate the claim, and stressed that Powerade ION4 was an isotonic sports drink aimed at individuals taking part in intense physical exercise.
The product was formulated and marketed in line with Directive 2009/39/EC relating to foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses (PARNUTS) and guidance issued by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), CCGB said.
Substantial scientific evidence over 38 years showed that, for those indulging in sustained, high intensity exercise, drinking isotonic sports drink with water and appropriate levels of sodium and carbohydrates, backed the claim, the firm added.
Fluid retention and taste
Drinking such a product resulted in higher volumes of fluid consumption, and better retention compared to plain water, CCGB said, while sodium and carbohydrates in the product and its taste each played an important role in hydrating the body by encouraging consumers to drink.
Sodium in sports drinks also helped to protect plasma volume – which falls during dehydration – helped maintain plasma concentration, reduced urine production and helped maintain the osmotic drive to drink, resulting in greater voluntary fluid consumption, according to the firm.
Such drinks also cut the risk of fluid-electrolyte imbalances such as hyponatraemia (a dangerously low blood sodium level), while carbohydrates in sports drinks worked with sodium to help stimulate the uptake of water in the intestine, CCGB said.
CCGB supplied excerpts from 13 studies as evidence to the ASA and letters from two experts in the field, and its hydration claim defense was accepted by the ASA.