This week First Lady Michelle Obama will be out front promoting a new campaign to get Americans to drink more water as part of her “Let’s Move” initiative.  Maya Rhodan identifies the problem that this program — called “Drink Up” — is designed to tackle:

Inspiring Drink Up is the realization that Americans are far from adequately hydrated. Though the Associated Press reports that water consumption is on the rise, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 43% of U.S. adults drink less than four cups of water every day and 7% of adults drink no water at all: a far cry from the eight 8oz glasses that have long been touted as the recommended daily amount. Even more worryingly, Drink Up says that a nearly a quarter of the nation’s children do not drink any water on a daily basis but instead meet their liquid needs with sugary drinks.


There’s no question that getting people — especially children — to abandon sugar-sweetened beverages in favor of water would have enormous health benefits.  Getting the message across is the challenge:

The CDC says that simply eliminating sugary drinks can cut as many as 650 calories from a person’s daily caloric intake. However, the campaign will steer away from negative messages against specific types of drinks. Efforts to target soda, such as proposed taxes on its consumption, have failed in states across the country because of well-funded resistance from industry lobbyists. An attempt to ban large servings of soda in New York City was similarly ill-fated.

Drink Up’s decision to avoid taking on the soda companies is sure to garner its share of critics, in the same way that the Let’s Move campaign has been taken to task for its emphasis on exercise and failure to attack the role of junk food and poor nutrition in America’s obesity epidemic.


James Hamblin, M.D. thinks keeping the message positive misses the message:

Between the lines of statements like that, I hope what’s really meant by “Drink up!” is this: Replace soda with water, yes. Remember that too much water can still be bad, though, and for most people we have no reason to believe that an extra glass of water will result in health benefits. Drinking a glass of water certainly shouldn’t replace otherwise healthy behavior or give anyone a sense of confidence in their health that justifies subsequent unhealthy behavior. When you’re thirsty, yes, choose water over something with empty calories. If you’re thirsty from morning until night, figuratively or otherwise, see a doctor. Don’t let anyone who doesn’t know how much water you drink tell you to drink more water.

If you’re wont to insist on chanting about defunding a national health initiative, consider this one. I know we’re just trying to “keep things positive,” but missing the opportunity to use this campaign’s massive platform to clearly talk down soda or do something otherwise more productive is lamentable. Public health campaigns of this magnitude don’t come around every day. This one squanders both money and precious celebrity Twitter endorsements. Keeping things positive and making an important point are not mutually exclusive, you fools.


Rhodan reveals another fly in the ointment:

The Drink Up campaign is  working with the American Beverage Association and the International Bottled Water Association, as well as several bottled water companies, including Aquafina, Voss, Poland Spring and Deer Park, who will carry the campaign’s water-drop logo on their products, websites and trucks.


The production, recycling, and disposal of plastic water bottles are big environmental problems due to the amount of energy required to make and recycle them, as well as the burden of plastic trash in landfills and in our waterways.  If only there was another way to purify other sources of drinking water. Something cheap and simple.  Alexandra Sifferlin discusses a study that might provide new ideas and solutions:

After testing various samples of plants from cacti to flowers, the researchers determined that cilantro is the most prevalent and powerful so-called bioabsorbant material in the area. Bioabsorption is the scientific term for using organic materials often found in plants, that when dried, could replace the charcoal currently used in filters. The team suspects that the outer wall structure of the tiny cells that make up the plant are ideal for capturing metals. Other plants, like dandelions and parsley may also provide similar bioabsorbant capabilities.


If only we could grow a crop that could remove salt and impurities from seawater.  Wouldn’t that be a remarkable invention, impacting the course of human history?

Here’s a link to “Drink Up.”