Friday, June 11, 2010

Why VitaminWater Zero Has 0 Calories yet 4 g of Carbs

Another request!  A SHE inquired about why VitaminWater Zero suspiciously provides zero calories yet has 4 grams of carbs.  As you probably know, each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories.  So based on the label, the product should provide 16 calories.  Well technically, there are 2.5 servings in each 20-oz bottle of VitaminWater Zero so it would contain 10 g of carbs equaling 40 calories.  Hmmmm.....

The answer has to do with the laws that govern food labeling, courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Look at any food label, and you will see the list of nutrients contained in that product per serving.  The major macronutrients are listed (fat, protein, carbohydrate) and then a few vitamins and minerals.  Anything that is not fat or protein (except alcohol) is listed in the carbohydrate category.  This includes dietary fiber and sugar alcohols.  

What makes things confusing is that most fibers and sugar alcohols don't provide 4 calories per gram.  Some of them provide zero calories per gram.  

So FDA requires food manufacturers to list the actual grams of these nutrients in the carbohydrate category but then accurately report the actual calories elsewhere on the label.  Strange, eh?  Imagine the trouble this causes people with diabetes that might be counting their wouldn't count those carbs that don't provide any calories because they go straight through your chute (meaning they enter and exit the body without releasing any energy, hence zero calories).  And then when there's 2.5 servings in one bottle...that can be A LOT of math!

VitaminWater Zero is sweetened with Truvia, a new sweetener that is a mixture of stevia (a natural plant-based sweetener) and erythritol, a sugar alcohol that is also naturally found in plants.  Erythritol is considered a carbohydrate on a food label but does not provide any calories. Coca Cola, who owns VitaminWater, could be labeling the sugar alcohols under the carbohydrate category, but they don't.  They are not required to do that under the law and they probably do not listit because the label is tiny.

Now that explains most of the discrepancy.  The label also lists 1 g of sugar per serving that presumably is coming from fructose (according to the ingredient statement).  FDA law says that products that provide less than 5 calories per serving can declare 0 calories.  Now remember, there is actually 2.5 g of of total sugar in that bottle.  This equals 10 calories. 

Given all of that, one bottle of VitaminWater Zero actually provides 10 calories.  Not as low as a glass of water but better than a bottle of Gatorade or a soda.  And it's pretty yummy.  However, if you're worried about the 10 calories, chew sugar-free gum for 1 hour.  That burns about 10 calories. 

Lastly, sugar alcohols can cause major bloating, gas, and feelings like you might explode at any minute.  The severity depends on what kind of bacteria you have living in your belly (seriously).  Erythritol will not cause these problems so no need to worry about it.  Now maltitol, that's another story.  Never eat an energy bar with maltitol and get on an airplane...I'm just saying....


  1. Now I want to find an energy bar with maltitol in it to experiment with.... not necessarily me per se :) (the word verification to post this was 'manglop', seriously, do they read the email before deciding on a word?)

  2. Thank u very much, I m drinking 1 right now lool and my belly isproviding gas for SFrancisco loooool... imma switch bak to ma regular water..... damn it

  3. This needs to be updated. I drink Vitamin Water Zero everyday and 20 Fl Oz IS 1 Serving not 1 bottle is 2.5 servings.

    1. Yes the label on the 20 oz. Vitamin Water Zero squeezed lemonade I am drinking now says 0 calories and 5 carbohydrates with 0 sugar. I guess that would be true if the 5 carbs are fiber and sugar alcohols, but as you said they aren't required to list that so they don't. Thank you for the info! :)

    2. Oh and serving size is 1 bottle.

  4. Best information about any brand name food product I've ever read. Thorough, concise and to the point.

  5. I'm looking at the 16.9 fluid ounces bottle that has 0 cal zero total fat zero sodium like a trace of potassium total carbs 4 g zero sugar zero protein so many calories is it for the serving?

  6. Well I'm still confused because when I look at the 16.9 fluid ounces bottle of vitamin water zero, it says 0 cal, zero total fat, zero sodium, trace potassium, total carbohydrate for ram, sugars zero , protein zero , so since there is no sugar how many calories does this actually have for the 16.9 ounce blue and serving?