High-end hydration: Fancy waters with fancy price tags, IV drips

Coconut, cactus, maple, almond, artichoke ... water. Why the water-mania?

It's a marketer's dream: We want to drink more water, we love flavor, trend, innovation. And the products are there to fulfill.



In this article, the name of Dr. Darragh O’Carroll of Revive DTLA is misspelled as Darrah O’Connell.


Way beyond electrolyte replacement drinks like Gatorade, there are products that promise to give us the vitamins and minerals we need, excite us with added flavors and ingredients such as caffeine, intrigue us with enhancements we didn't know we needed. Coconut water has been big for a couple of years; now we can find cactus water, maple water, almond, olive, artichoke and watermelon … water. There's one called Crazy Water from Mineral Wells, Texas. Ultra-cool blk water is enhanced with 60 fulvic-trace minerals.

You can buy gluten-free water, a claim you might think unnecessary, but some waters throw in food starch along with their flavors, vitamins and minerals, which could affect people who have celiac disease.

WATER: What we need, why we need it and how to get it | L.A.: Do you know what's in your water?

Then there are water connoisseurs such as Michael Mascha and L.A.'s own water sommelier Martin Riese, who created the water menu for Ray's and Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

OK. Why?

To Mascha, it's like enjoying wine. Once a wine connoisseur, Mascha was forbidden by his doctor to drink alcohol, so he turned to water. "I applied the same principles as one does to wine," he said. "The water I'm talking about is a natural product, from a source, with a flavor and a story all its own. Maybe it's a soft rainwater from Tasmania, or a water from Greenland that's been underground for thousands of years, absorbing minerals."

Fancy water, fancy price tag. While most retail for $3 or $4, bottles at Stark Bar can range from $6 for a Berg from Canada to $30 for a bottle of Norwegian Voss to $44 for a bottle of Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic water fresh from Mauna Loa. Mascha, who lives in Harlingen, Texas, recognizes that this epicurean experience goes far beyond hydration: "I go fishing all the time and bring 2 liters of my reverse-osmosis filtered water in the boat, but when I sit down in a fine restaurant, I want to be able to ask the sommelier to bring me the water menu."

When that happens all over the country, he said, he will consider his website, Finewaters.com, a success.

So what do our experts say about all the watery fuss? "If it gets people to drink the water they need," said nutritionist Nancy Clark, "it's fine."

Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer said to save your money. "Some of those flavored waters are not much better than sugary sodas, and the vitamin and mineral-spiked waters have been repeatedly found to have no value. You're better off drinking a glass of clean water with lemon and using the money you save on a pair of running shoes."

Finally, there's IV rehydration. Suffering from a bad hangover? Food poisoning? Revive DTLA will send a doctor and nurse to your home, office or hotel room, equipped with a mobile IV unit to flush out all that bad stuff. Full disclosure: I tried it. After fulfilling my (self-imposed) assignment to drink a lot and go to bed really late, I sat on my couch the next morning as Dr. Darrah O'Connell and his nurse hooked me up to a liter of PlasmaLyte, an electrolyte fluid. Also in the IV bag was anti-nausea drug Zofran, vitamin B-12 and the anti-inflammatory Toradol. Mild stick (his nurse was very good) and a cool sensation as the fluid slowly dripped into my veins. I was curious about O'Connell's mention of regular clients. Who are they and how often does he see them? "Let's just say they like to party," he said tactfully, "and I see some of them twice a week."

After the vein flush, I took a nap as O'Connell suggested. When I woke up an hour later, I felt fantastic, clearheaded and rested. The feeling lasted two days.

Instinct tells you that you could achieve the same results by drinking lots of water. "Yes, that's true," said physiologist Lawrence E. Armstrong of the University of Connecticut, "but this is faster. It's what we use for heat exhaustion and severe dehydration. It hasn't been studied scientifically for hangover, but anecdotally, I've heard it works well. It's useful, but not practical for the average person."

So, a certain kind of crazy, maybe crazy rich as well. Bottom line, if you've got the money ($99 to $125 a pop), it can't hurt.



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