project and, eventually, her research
passion. She began researching the
subject in February 2012.
Her coconut
research studies
included two
different brands:
Coconut Juice,
from the United
States, and Real
Coconut, from
Thailand. She
compared the two
coconut water
selections with
bottled water,
Powerade, and
Gatorade.
Her study found
that in nearly
every nutrient
category that was
tested – including
potassium,
calcium,
magnesium and pH – coconut water
provided the most nutrients.
The traditional sports drinks ranked
higher in sodium, which is important
in replacing salt lost when the body
sweats. Because of that, Bhattacharya
recommends coconut water specifically
after light workouts that cause a person
to sweat less, or making up for the
smaller amount of sodium in coconut
water with a salty snack.
A doctor’s take
As a sports medicine physician with a
lot of experience working with athletes
of all types, Dr. Matthew Reeves found
Bhattacharya’s research interesting
and useful.
My biggest concern with sports
drinks is the sugar content, and I’m
always looking for low-sugar options,”
said Reeves, who practices with IU
Health Southern Indiana Physicians in
Bloomington.
Reeves completed a fellowship in sports
medicine and has
provided care for
athletes at major
universities, on
minor league
teams, and at
high schools. He
also served on the
Commission on
Sports Medicine
for the Indiana
State Medical
Association.
Making smart
choices about
what to drink
or eat after a
workout starts
with considering
the rigor of a
person’s athletic
activity. For most
people, 60 minutes to three hours of
moderate exercise a week is not enough
to lead to a great deal of
sodium or water loss,
Reeves said.
I think that
people need to
still consider
water first
as a method
of hydration
because few
of us are actually
working out hard
enough that we’re losing significant
amounts of nutrients,” he said. “But
for those looking for a change of pace
or those who like the taste, coconut
water seems like it has a lot to offer.”
During the course of her research,
Bhattacharya also uncovered other
health benefits that could help more
people than just athletes.
Coconut water provides cytokinin,
a plant growth hormone that makes
skin look younger and is known to help
regulate cell division, which could help
prevent cancer. Additionally, because
the water is protected by the coconut’s
hard outer shell, the water itself is
sanitary, which allows doctors to use it
as human blood plasma in hospitals in
underprivileged countries.
Reeves hopes Bhattacharya continues
her research. From his own reading
of her findings and other information
he’s gathered, Reeves said he also sees
some potential health benefits for the
general population.
From a nutrition standpoint, I’ve
asked older patients who need more
potassium to try to eat a banana a
day, and it can be hard to find options
that provide more potassium and less
sugar,” Reeves said. “Coconut water
has those components and other things
going for it such as antioxidants and
amino acids. I think more research
into coconut water is necessary, but it
seems to have a place.”
Bhattacharya said coconut water’s
many health benefits
are enough to convince
her to drink it herself as a
way to stay hydrated.
I keep a box of coconut
water in my office and
drink one every day,”
she said. “I have many
classes this semester,
and this drink helps
me stay hydrated
through my busy
schedule.”
For those
looking for
a change
of pace...
coconut water
seems like it
has a lot to
offer.
Dr. Matthew Reeves