Should You Be Drinking Water with Karma Added?


This is a guest blog post by Carol Harvey, Director of food/nutrition labeling and product development at Palate Works.

One of the latest concepts in “enhanced hydration” is to “deploy” supplements into bottled water at the time of consumption, rather than let them soak for months and potentially lose potency.

At least two companies have products that do this via a nutrient delivery system where you twist or push in the bottle cap to release a spoonful of vitamins and other ingredients.

Karma Wellness Water is one of these. The instructions are to “peel… push… shake to initiate the health benefits…[and] transform water into wellness.” Each flavor has a different theme: Balance, Vitality, Body, Spirit and Mind.

Interesting concept, but there are at least two costs: monetary and taste. Wouldn’t it be cheaper (than the $3 per bottle) and just as convenient to pop a vitamin/supplement pill with plain water or tea? As for taste, if you aren’t expecting the “water” to be noticeably sweetened with soapy/chemical-tasting stevia along with some sugar, there could be shock at first sip, and not much taste enjoyment afterwards.

While the company should be commended for pointing out that certain vitamins can be lost via exposure to UV light, heat, air, etc. (although whether this happens to a significant extent in pre-enriched beverages isn’t addressed/documented), there are many issues with the product and its marketing that deserve counter Balance:

The web site FAQs give only non-scientific resources/links to back up the albeit generally-true vitamin-deterioration claims, and these mostly address the potency loss from vitamins in pill form. A CNN blog cited doesn’t discuss any potency problem, but rather toxicity (too much supplementation), in vitamin waters. It also says that fat-soluble vitamins won’t be absorbed unless eaten with fat-containing foods – partially true, but not even mentioned by the Karma people, whose products all contain fat-soluble vitamins but no fat. Furthermore, the CNN expert doesn’t recommend getting your nutrients from supplemented water in any case. Then there’s the issue of high doses of water-soluble vitamins such as the 1000mg of vitamin C in the Balance formula being mostly sent to the toilet. Keep in Mind that the Karmics have two MDs and a PhD in nutrition on their advisory team.

Karma Supplement Facts Something else the advisors don’t do (besides following the links from their web site) is research the Body of food labeling regulations.

FDA considers water to be a food, not a supplement, even when it contains supplements. If you drink the product like a beverage (and if it’s called “water” and comes in a bottle… it is a beverage), it should be labeled as a food/beverage product with a Nutrition Facts label, not a Supplement Facts label. And it needs a proper ingredients list.

In the further Spirit of enlightenment…

- Caffeine is listed when it comes from green tea, but the stimulant status of herbs such as yerba mate are not. Yet they say the product is “absolutely” safe for kids. Can we see a link/resource backing that up? While not required, it’s best to indicate which ingredients are stimulants (and how strong), as they can have serious health (and PR) effects. Karma Front of Pack

- All the bottles state “low calorie.” Assuming a bottle of water could be called a supplement, it would not be permitted to use a low calorie claim:

A “low calorie” claim may not be made on dietary supplements, except when an equivalent amount of a dietary supplement that the labeled dietary supplement resembles and for which it substitutes … normally exceeds the definition for “low calorie.” 21 CFR 101.60(c)(1)(iii)(A)

Basically, if something isn’t normally high in calories (e.g., vitamin pills or water), then there shouldn’t be a claim about it being low in calories.

The Vitality of marketing-speak runneth over on these products, but there are fixes to Boost their taste and their Immunity to FDA warning letters:

1. Change the Supplement Facts to Nutrition Facts.

2. Make the nutrition/ingredients panel bigger/legible (the bottle qualifies as a regular size, not small or intermediate, so the type should be larger). The main text should be no smaller than 8 pt.

3. Take out the stevia. It gives a diet Kool-Aid, overly faux-sweetened taste. A small amount of sugar and fruit essence, and/or a dash of real fruit juice is a better choice for a “wellness” product and calories can still be low.

4. Indicate on the main label that the fruitiness is “from natural flavors” (as required) so people won’t think the beverage contains real fruit… or add some real juice from those fruits depicted on the bottle.

5. Remove “Fresh” in reference to the vitamins (that term is not allowed here per 21CFR101.95).

6. “Proprietary Blend” is listed on the Supplement Facts label, but the blend components are not indented below, so it isn’t clear if they are part of the blend. If they aren’t, then the blend ingredients aren’t being declared, which is not allowed. Most likely, this is a formatting error – use indentation. (See Supplement Facts photo above.)

7. Remove claims from package, web site and marketing materials (all are considered “labeling”) that imply a drug-like benefit, such as “stimulates focus,” “immunity booster” and “anti-aging.”

8. If using health claims, make sure they are allowed ones, or (for structure/function claims on true “dietary supplements”) the required disclaimer is displayed.

So, why do these details matter? It’s all about not misleading consumers (or otherwise preventing them from comparing products on a level playing field), or having an unfair competitive advantage vs. products that do follow the rules.

Please label drinks responsibly.

Karma in a kup

Carol Harvey has been a nutrition labeling and product development consultant for over 15 years. She can be reached at palatemail [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.


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  • Leslie

    Thanks! This is exactly why I continue to read the Fooducate blog. Even though I’d never be tempted by this product in the first place, this analysis taught me a lot about labeling in general.

    • Jeremy R Wise

      lmao, You definitely need to learning skills.

  • katyn

    Why the HECK do folks need all this stuff anyway? Guess eating lots of green veggies, calcium rich foods and whole grains is not TRENDY enough????

    • Aaron

      Speaking as someone who works two jobs, it’s not always possible for everyone to have the time to prepare a healthy meal. And when that happens having an alternative to stay healthy is appreciative. Don’t judge people on stuff like this just because your life is easier.

  • Norma

    Didn’t you have a “guest post” a.k.a. advertisement several months ago for some ridiculous “fruit-enhanced,” “healthy” bottled water that I called BS on? And then you started blocking my comments? Why was that brand okay and these ones aren’t? No kickback for you this time?

    • Fooducate

      We blocked you because you were obnoxious. Please don’t start all over again…

  • ariadne

    i am confused about the ‘chemical’ taste of stevia … it is a natural herb 240 times as sweet as sugar with out the adverse affects. the artificial sweetener manufacturers and the sugar corps did eveything they could do to keep it out of the american market.

    • lindsey

      this water is good for you

    • Smart_Blond

      Yeah, I didn’t get that remark, either. Stevia is completely natural so how can it taste “chemical” – it doesn’t.

  • Ashley I

    I am actually writing a blog post on Karma right now and stumbled across your blog while researching a few things. I was absolutely disgusted to find that the first ingredient on the “Spirit” flavour and the second on the “Balance” flavour to be maltodextrin, an additive that is known to contain MSG. There are two others on the “Spirit” label and one on the “Balance” label that have an extremely high probability or are prove to contin amounts of MSG. I don’t know if it’s really fair to label this as a wellness beverage. Thanks for the insight. I will be linking this post on my site.

    • Guest

      I did upvote your post because it gave readers a chance to explore how MSG labeling can be circumvented; however, maltodextrin does not contain MSG, you cannot make one molecule BE another molecule at the same instance. I think what you meant is that it can produce free glutamic acid given the right conditions.

    • Josh S

      Maltodextrin =/= MSG. Gotta love how a really good product comes out, and the response is to bitch about packaging an make incorrect jumps and assumptions. The only legitimate complaint this blog had was that people may not absorb 100% of the nutrients in the drink, but that’s really not the companies fault. Also I guess the taste is a point, but I think that’s a preference thing because I know many people who prefer “soapy watered-down” flavours as they are subtle.

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  • Jonny

    I’m glad someone is there to keep these labeling details in check, but why the hell do I care about font size etc?? Or how you perceive it to taste? I want to know if the ingredients are harmful or could potentially be harmful in any way. I drink karma water regularly because it has caffeine & vitamins. I want to know if I’m drinking something I shouldn’t be. If you don’t know anything about the ingredients, please recommend a resource.

  • Heso

    ? The bottle clearly labels it for adult consumption only. Max one per day. Also the taste. Since when did things that were all about health taste good. Akins bars were gross as hell. God that chocolate was chalky. Obviously all things should be in moderation. MSG well then just read an article about how msg can actually benefit people (in moderation). Helps you feel full faster. I absolutely appreciate this because its a hell of a lot better for me to drink this then some nasty energy drink. Im constantly on back shifts and while getting a better job may be one option another is to somehow compensate for the lost vitamins and nutrients because of a messed up appetite and sleep routine. Which yes I know the appetite is screwed because the sleep routine is screwed. Even still I need to be able to get my vitamins and nutrients. Sure I could go pay out the ass each month for a bottle of vitamins and nutrients. Or waste tons in good food because well fresh veggies do spoil. And ive got this thing about frozen veggies. When I can eat healthy I do. But for times when I feel myself running low I thank Karma. And all other great health drinks. You must read labels. Check things out. And be responsible. You should never rely 100% upon supplements. ALL IN MODERATION.

  • Cynthia

    I think these drinks taste great, and they are so much better for you than sodas or other juice drinks that are high in sugar, aspartame & saccharine. While it may be your opinion that stevia has a chemical and soapy flavor, a lot of people don’t think so. Another commentor made the point that stevia is a natural substance, not a chemical. Again, much better for you than aspartame or saccharine. I’m aware that a lot of their claims scream “gimmick,” but the fact remains that this is a healthy, lightly flavored beverage that a lot of people enjoy. There is no miracle substance guaranteed to make people healthy, and people who believe that, we’ll that’s their deal. I could go on and on…. but I’ll stop.

    • Tricia

      +1 Cynthia. Exactly. I drink this because I have difficulty getting enough water into me every day. I want something with a light flavor but most options like juice, sports drinks, Vitamin Water, etc are full of sugar or, even worse, aspartame/chemical sweeteners – or they just taste too strong for my liking.

      As I understand, stevia (natural, not chemical!) sweetens without the spike and crash of other natural sweeteners (hence preferred by diabetics). I do find it has that Kool-Aid taste – so far I only enjoy the orange Karma water.

      As for all the vitamins, I do realize I’m probably not absorbing them. I just want a bit of lightly flavored hydration without doing too much damage to myself. I read the ingredients with things like ginseng, stevia, etc, and thought ok, this isn’t going to hurt me.

  • lindsey

    I love this water

  • Jeremy R Wise

    The grammar attack, that I personally could tell was a list, is what made me realize this is an extremely opinonated article. I would imagine from a vendor of a similar product. Which i then realized was the case when i read the comments. You guys suck. Lmao

  • laural38

    of all similar products on the market, we have found this one to be one of the best and will continue to purchase. Personally I have no problem with Stevia we do not detect the soapy “diet Kool-Aid” taste referred to in this article. However, the other data was interesting to read.

  • purify0my0heart

    Is it just me, or were to too concerned with the labeling rules (that EVERYONE and their UNCLE are flouting right now) to tell us if this method of vitamin delivery is better or worse than water with the vitamins already in it? I think you also fail to mention what the vitamins you find fault with do. Also I hate water because it has no taste, so I welcome our Steivia and Truvia overlords!

  • RighteousNixon

    Easily one of the best nutritional waters on the market. Just remember not to drink more than 1 a day and I can guarantee you this drink will be a positive addition to 99% of the populations overall diet. Anyone suggesting otherwise is either working for a competing company or doesn’t know jack about health, nutrition, and the ingredients contained within this water.

    As for the taste, that is totally 100% subjective and I for one couldn’t possibly disagree more. I absolutely love the light flavor and don’t detect even an ounce of soapy/chemically flavor. Again, 100% purely subjective so adding this as a negative really highlights how biased this review really is.

  • Haajiri Khaliifa

    I actually felt really energized and alert after i drank Karma Water. I had it once, and i’m going out now to try it again. Was trying to research into it more, and came across this site. I guess i will try it second time and see how it is. If i feel something great again, trust me i will keep on drinking it. If not then we’ll see!

    • Haajiri Khaliifa

      Update! Went to have one earlier today. It was good, just like the first time. :-)

  • o

    They do mark on bottle for adult use only.

  • Baley

    On the bottle it says for adult use only. It does not say “safe for kids”. The bottle also says not a significant source of saturated fat, trans fat. Look at the bottle better before depicting it .