Pedialyte is a popular hydration drink that’s available at nearly every major grocery store and pharmacy in the U.S. The brand claims that their drinks can prevent dehydration and help you "Feel Better Fast."
But are the ingredients in Pedialyte good for you? What's in Pedialyte anyway? Does the average consumer really need “hydration” drinks beyond regular water? And does Pedialyte have any questionable additive ingredients?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review every ingredient in Pedialyte and Pedialyte Organic to give our take on whether the drinks are good for you or if they're a waste of money.
We'll highlight some questionable additive ingredients in each formulation and share a whole food hydration option that health-conscious consumers may want to consider.
Pedialyte Classic Ingredient Review
The original Pedialyte product is called “Pedialyte Classic” and is arguably the most popular Pedialyte drink. The ingredient label above is from the strawberry flavor, but the ingredients of all Pedialyte Classic flavors are similar so our comments stand for all flavors.
There are a number of ingredients in this formulation that we recommend avoiding.
Dextrose is a simple sugar that accounts for the 9 grams (g) of sugar in this drink. While sugar can help treat clinically dehydrated patients, we typically recommend avoiding added sugar for health reasons.
A medical review found that added sugar is associated with increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and many Americans already consume too much sugar from diet.
Citric acid was shown in a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal to cause whole-body inflammation in a small subset of patients.
Red 40 and Blue 1 are artificial food dyes. An 2012 medical review reported that Red 40 has been found to be contaminated with carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
The researchers in the above-linked medical review suggested that all artificial food dyes should be removed from foods and drinks due to toxicity concerns: “The inadequacy of much of the testing and the evidence for carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, and hypersensitivity, coupled with the fact that dyes do not improve the safety or nutritional quality of foods, indicates that all of the currently used dyes should be removed from the food supply.”
We recommend avoiding artificial food dye intake entirely.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener which was found in a recent clinical trial to negatively impact insulin sensitivity in healthy adults.
Acesulfame potassium is another artificial sweetener shown in clinical studies to cause negative changes to brain and gut function as we referenced in our "is MiO healthy" article which reviewed another hydration product that contains this ingredient.
Natural flavor is a broad descriptor, and a medical review published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal documented some toxicity concerns regarding natural flavoring agents and their metabolites.
Pedialyte also contains a blend of electrolytes including sodium citrate and potassium citrate. Supplemental electrolytes may be beneficial for individuals who are dehydrated, but they can also be obtained from whole foods.
Overall, we consider this to be an unhealthy formulation. It contains a large number of questionable additive ingredients and we do not understand the need for this type of product outside of a hospital setting where someone is so clinically dehydrated they need a specialized solution.
Is Pedialyte Organic Healthier?
Pedialyte sells an organic version of their product, so consumers are often curious about whether this is a healthier option.
This drink has the same sugar content (9 g) as Pedialyte Classic, but most of it comes from organic apple juice concentrate, which we consider to be a healthier and less processed option than dextrose (which is still in this formulation but presumably at a much lower dose).
Organic stevia leaf extract is a much healthier option than the sweeteners in other Pedialyte products. A 2020 meta-study found that stevia has anti-inflammatory and hypotensive (blood-pressure-reducing) properties, which suggests that it has a favorable effect on metabolism.
Organic citric acid is likely derived from citrus fruits like lemon (though we wish Pedialyte would clarify this) which would make it a healthier option than conventional citric acid which is often manufactured from a fungus called Aspergillus niger (potentially explaining its inflammatory effects in some consumers).
We consider organic flavor to achieve a higher standard of ingredient safety and purity than natural flavor based on USDA guidelines.
This product is free of artificial coloring agents and preservatives.
We consider Pedialyte Organic to be a significantly healthier option than other Pedialyte products. We don't recommend it due to the added sugar and our questions over citric acid sourcing, but for consumers intent on purchasing from Pedialyte, this is the product we think is the best option.
Are Hydration Beverages Even Necessary?
The theory behind hydration beverages is that consumers can better retain fluid from a dehydrated state, and therefore restore optimal health, when carbohydrates and electrolytes like sodium and potassium are added to water. Medical research shows that electrolytes combined with carbs causes “increased fluid retention” compared to water alone.
However, our question is how many regular individuals achieve such a state of clinical dehydration that this type of special formulation is necessary? We understand the benefit of specific hydration formulations in the context of clinical dehydration, but we haven’t come across any medical evidence that healthy adults have any need for this type of product, or even that this type of product is necessary or superior to water in the context of mild dehydration.
Hospitals treat dehydration with IV fluids that contain electrolytes, and this medical resource page from Cedars-Sinai (a top hospital) suggests that individuals in hot weather or who sweat a lot during exercise are at increased risk of dehydration.
A medical review published in the Nutrients journal concluded that hydration beverages containing glucose, fructose and sodium could improve athletic performance, but Pedialyte only contains one of these ingredients (sodium).
So perhaps individuals at an increased risk of dehydration may benefit from a product like Pedialyte, but until we come across medical research explaining what circumstances this type of product is beneficial for, or how this type of product performs better than water in the context of an everyday consumer’s life, we remain confused about the need for commercialized “hydration” drinks with many processed ingredients given that water, fruits and whole foods are inherently hydrating.
Drinking water regularly seems like the logical way to remain hydrated, and is the way that humans evolved to remain hydrated for hundreds of thousands of years.
A YouTube video published by health media brand POPSUGAR Fitness is only 90 seconds long and takes a similar stance to ours on the healthiness of hydration drinks:
Our Whole Food Hydration Recommendation
The healthy hydration drink we recommend is Once Upon a Coconut Pure Coconut Water.
This product has one single ingredient: coconut water. There are no artificial sweeteners, no added sugars and no preservatives. Coconut water is naturally rich in potassium and vitamin C so it can provide additional nutrition while exercising compared to drinking water alone.
This coconut water brand is also packaged in an aluminum can, which we consider a much healthier option (and better for the environment) than the plastic used to package Pedialyte. Plastic is definitively endrocrine-disrupting as documented in medical studies, and avoiding plastic use as much as possible can benefit health (especially for men, as plasticizing chemicals are estrogenic).
Interested consumers can check out Once Upon a Coconut Pure Coconut Water at this link to the product's Amazon listing.
A nutritionist with the TikTok username "nutritiouslyeasy" suggests the same: