Coconut water, being promoted as a “sport drink”, is gaining in popularity, according to Self Magazine.  It comes with some wild claims – ranging from it speeding up one’s metabolism to staving off heart attacks. Is it really a miracle drink?

According to the May issue of Self Magazine, coconut water does accomplish some of the promised side effects, but in many cases isn’t any more effective than cheaper alternatives.

The claims of helping weight loss through increased metabolism are not gaining traction with researchers.  “This is an urban legend,” says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California in Davis. “There is no valid research proving it.”

Applegate also points out shortcomings relative to replacing electrolytes, sodium and potassium.  “The problem is that it has only about 30 milligrams of sodium per cup; we lose much more than that during a long workout,” Applegate says.

Coconut water may be fine after an average workout, but Applegate states that serious athletes may need a sport beverage with a higher sodium-to-potassium ratio, such as Gatorade or Powerade Ion4.  From a cost standpoint, lighter exercisers will get about the same benefit from tap water.

Molecules Magazine recognizes that coconut water contains a plant hormone (cytokinin) that slows the aging process in plants and some insects.  Benefits haven’t been proven in humans, though.

As for the effect on heart-health, the impact is tempered.  Andrea Giancoli, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association recognizes that diets high in potassium can help keep blood pressure low; coconut water is a god source of the mineral.  However, Dr. Giancoli states it is preferable to consume whole foods like vegetables (spinach, sweet potatoes) and lowfat milk, which supply additional heart-healthy nutrients such as fiber and vitamin D.

As with many things, coconut water comes down to a matter of taste.  It may not deliver on all the promises, but it is a relatively low calorie alternative.  Often confused with coconut milk, which has 10 times the calories and is high in saturated fat, coconut water only has 46 calories per cup.