I used to love adding MiO to my water. Honestly, it’s so much better tasting than plain water—and it’s convenient, too. But eventually, I decided I’d rather avoid some of its unnatural ingredients. Today, let’s go in detail and answer the question: Is MiO healthy?
MiO has no sugar and zero calories, which makes it appear relatively healthy. However, MiO also has artificial sweeteners and artificial colors that could potentially elevate the risk of developing insulin resistance, hyperactivity in children, or other issues. This makes its long-term health impact unclear.
Below, we’ll explore the ingredients, nutrients, and possible side effects of MiO. I’ll discuss whether it’s a good choice for weight loss, whether it raises blood sugar, and more. I’ll also compare it with Crystal Light, soda, and Gatorade!
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Is MiO Good for You?
Here are 15 questions I’ll be exploring about MiO nutrition. Click any of them to skip ahead—or keep scrolling to read them all:
- What Does MiO Have in It?
- Does MiO Have Artificial Sweeteners?
- Are the Artificial Colors in MiO Safe?
- Does MiO Have Electrolytes?
- Is MiO High in Sodium?
- Is MiO Good for Weight Loss?
- Does MiO Raise Blood Sugar?
- Does MiO Have Caffeine?
- Does MiO Count as Water Intake?
- Does MiO Have Antifreeze in It?
- Is the Sodium Benzoate in MiO Vitamins Harmful?
- Is MiO Better Than Crystal Light?
- Is MiO Better Than Soda?
- Is MiO Sport Better Than Gatorade?
- Is MiO Vegan?
1. What Does MiO Have in It?
Let’s start by actually looking at some MiO ingredients. Below is a table showing the four different MiO product lines.
I’ll share my takeaway points below the table:
|MiO Original (Berry)||Water, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Gum Arabic, Sucralose (Sweetener), Contains Less Than 2% Of Natural Flavor, Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 6, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Rosemary Extract (To Protect Flavor).|
|MiO Energy (Black Cherry)||Water, Citric Acid, Caffeine, Contains Less Than 2% Of Taurine, Guarana Extract, Ginseng Extract (Panax), Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Natural Flavor, Sucralose And Acesulfame Potassium (Sweeteners), Sodium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Gum Arabic, Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Red 40, Blue 1, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative).|
|MiO Vitamins (Orange Tangerine)||Water, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Gum Arabic, Sucralose (Sweetener), Contains Less Than 2% Of Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Natural Flavor, Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Yellow 6, Sodium Benzoate And Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Rosemary Extract (To Protect Flavor).|
|MiO Sport (Berry Blast)||Water, Citric Acid, Salt, Potassium Phosphate, Malic Acid, Contains Less Than 2% of Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Natural Flavor, Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium (Sweeteners), Gum Arabic, Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Potassium Citrate, Blue 1, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative).|
Here are the 3 biggest points I notice from these ingredients:
- MiO has artificial sweeteners. On the bright side, MiO doesn’t have added sugar. But instead, it has sucralose, and depending on the flavor, acesulfame potassium, too. These controversial artificial sweeteners may be the worst aspect of MiO. We’ll explore them more below.
- MiO has artificial colors. Depending on the flavor, your MiO could have Blue 1, Red 40, or Yellow 6. Each of these are controversial for their possible health effects—especially for children. We’ll explore artificial colors more below.
- Most MiO products have added B vitamins. This is not a huge benefit, as many B vitamins are easy to come by, and they may be absorbed better from whole foods. But it’s kind of nice to get some extra anyway.
- MiO Sport has added electrolytes. MiO Sport can help replace sodium and potassium as you sweat. This can help with hydration and salt balance in your body during exercise. But does MiO Sport have too much sodium? Let’s see below.
- MiO Sport has taurine, guarana extract, and panax. These ingredients come with potential benefits like improved athletic performance and cognitive function, along with lowered risk of cancer, heart disease, and other issues. (source, source)
- MiO Vitamins has sodium benzoate. This food preservative is a bit controversial because it can potentially turn into benzene, which is a carcinogen. That said, it’s unclear how likely this is in MiO. More on sodium benzoate below.
In my opinion, the biggest concern in MiO for most people would be the artificial sweeteners. So we’ll cover those in-depth in the next section.
2. Does MiO Have Artificial Sweeteners?
MiO contains the artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium. MiO does not have aspartame. The artificial sweeteners used in MiO are FDA approved and generally recognized as safe, but some studies suggest potential health risks for each.
The most controversial artificial sweetener is probably aspartame. Personally, I avoid aspartame because of research showing possible connections to depression. MiO does not contain aspartame.
Another sweetener people sometimes have questions about is xylitol, especially since it is bad for dogs. MiO does not contain xylitol.
So let’s look at the health concerns around the sweeteners in MiO—sucralose and acesulfame potassium (also known as acesulfame K).
First, let’s cover sucralose:
- Sucralose seems to be a migraine trigger for some people. (source, source)
- Sucralose may cause insulin resistance through multiple mechanisms (more about that below).
- Sucralose has been shown to have a surprisingly minimal effect on weight loss. (I’ll cover more about that in the weight-loss section below.)
What about acesulfame K?
- Studies in the 1970s suggested acesulfame K might cause cancer—but the studies were not of high quality. (source)
- One breakdown product of acesulfame K—acetoacetamide—may cause damage to the thyroid. (source)
- In a study of lactating women, acesulfame K was the artificial sweetener most found to make its way into breast milk. (source)
Most of the health concerns around artificial sweeteners are not well proven. But for many people, the risk feels hazardous anyway. There’s just some uncertainty about how the human body reacts long-term to any of these artificial sweeteners.
Therefore, some consumers may feel uneasy consuming such sweeteners in large quantities, like having MiO every day.
- Is MiO sweetened with stevia? You may be able to find “Naturally Sweetened MiO” with stevia, which is more likely to be a healthy sweetener. However, this product does not seem to be widely available, so you may need to order it online.
3. Are the Artificial Colors in MiO Safe?
MiO has artificial colors like Yellow 6, Red 40, and Blue 1. Research suggests that artificial colors cause hyperactivity and behavioral issues in some children. There are also concerns around possible carcinogens in artificial colors used in MiO.
I’ve made dedicated posts about each of these artificial colors before. But here are some of the specific health concerns people have:
- Yellow 6: Yellow 6 often contains known carcinogenic contaminants, including benzidine and 4-amino-biphenyl. These contaminants have only been documented at low levels where it shouldn’t be cause for concern, however. There were also animal trials where Yellow 6 resulted in kidney/adrenal tumors—but this result is disputed. (source, source)
- Red 40: Red 40 has small amounts of benzidene, which is a known carcinogen. It’s legally allowed because the amount is small enough to have no presumed effect. The EU requires foods with Red 40 to bear a warning saying it “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
- Blue 1: An unpublished study on Blue 1 suggested that it may cause tumors in mice. In addition, a test-tube study found that Blue 1 inhibited nerve cell development. So the effect on unborn fetuses may be of concern. (source)
All of these artificial colors are still being tested on animals to determine their safety. The most established problem is hyperactivity in kids. Some governments around the world have taken steps to add warnings or ban some of these dyes.
It’s actually hard to find good credible sources on which of these dyes are actually banned in which countries. There seems to be misinformation online about this. I found the most credible references to Yellow 6 being banned in Japan and several European countries.
4. Does MiO Have Electrolytes?
MiO Sport has 75 mg of sodium and 35 mg of potassium in each serving (1 squeeze). This is about 70% of the sodium and 100% of the potassium content of Gatorade. The other MiO product lines—MiO Original, MiO Vitamins, and MiO Energy—provide significantly less electrolytes.
MiO Sport is designed to help replenish electrolytes during “moderate physical activity” for one hour or less, according to the brand’s website.
Here is a table comparing MiO Sport to four other drinks with electrolytes and no added sugar. Since 1 squeeze of MiO Sport is usually mixed with 8 oz of water, I’ve compared 8 oz of each drink:
|Product||Sodium (per 8 oz)||Potassium (per 8 oz)|
Electrolytes are good, but it’s possible to go overboard, especially with sodium. Most people already consume too much salt. So let’s discuss MiO’s sodium content next.
5. Is MiO High in Sodium?
MiO has between 10 mg and 75 mg of sodium per serving (per squeeze), depending on the product line. MiO Energy has the least sodium, with only 10 mg per serving. MiO Sport has the most sodium, with 75 mg per serving.
It would take 20 servings of MiO Sport or 150 servings of MiO Energy to reach the American Heart Association’s ideal limit of 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
Why does MiO Sport have so much more sodium than other MiO products? Well, what many people don’t realize is that “electrolytes” include basic table salt. Electrolyte drinks like MiO Sport replenish your body’s salt while sweating and exercising.
But if you’re just drinking MiO (or MiO Sport) all day while being sedentary, can you get too much salt? It’s possible.
You’d be more likely to get too much salt from canned foods like frozen TV dinners, soup, and the like, though. Cans of soup can have 1,000+ mg of sodium—over 13 times as much as a serving of MiO Sport.
The American Heart Association’s official recommendation for sodium intake is to stay under 2,300 mg per day. But they’ve announced that they are “moving toward an ideal limit” of 1,500 mg per day. Certain at-risk populations also have a limit of 1,500 mg.
Considering all this, MiO is not the worst thing for sodium—but it’s not free of sodium, either. If you’re watching your sodium intake, maybe avoid MiO Sport (or limit servings).
6. Is MiO Good for Weight Loss?
One of the main reasons people choose zero-calorie drinks like MiO is to lose weight. But evidence actually shows that artificial sweeteners are surprisingly ineffective for weight loss.
You’d expect that switching from sugar to zero-calorie sweeteners would lead to significant weight-loss… but in most studies, they cause little to no weight loss.
One explanation is this: Artificial sweeteners keep you accustomed to sweet foods. So you still get cravings for sweets… And if you’re not careful, you’ll probably end up eating more calories from something else.
That said, the studies I reviewed suggested that sucralose (the main sweetener in MiO) doesn’t cause weight gain, either. So, MiO may be unlikely to affect your weight one way or the other, based on the evidence.
The real key to weight loss is your overall calorie balance. So if your goal is weight loss, then consider tracking your calories as I describe in this post—or else follow some of these 18 tips for weight loss without counting calories.
Whether you drink MiO will not make or break your weight-loss journey by itself. Don’t expect it to do all the work for you—but it shouldn’t prevent progress, either.
- How many calories are there in MiO? MiO has zero calories. It is sweetened with zero-calorie sweeteners, not real sugar.
7. Does MiO Raise Blood Sugar?
I didn’t find any peer-reviewed research directly on whether MiO raises blood sugar. However, MiO does have sucralose, which has been shown to affect blood glucose and insulin levels in some studies.
Sucralose is not absorbed in the small intestine like normal sugar, so it ends up in the large intestine. Apparently, it alters your gut bacteria there, affecting your tolerance to carbs going forward, as well.
So theoretically, drinking a lot of MiO may worsen your blood sugar control. However, this hasn’t been tested directly, to my knowledge.
It is also possible that artificial sweeteners could cause an insulin response through another mechanism. That is, the sweet taste of artificial sweeteners may trigger an insulin response even without real sugar in your bloodstream.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says that diet drinks (with sucralose) are acceptable “short-term replacements” to sugary drinks… But they recommend decreasing intake of these drinks over time, and focusing on plain water.
So, proceed with caution. If blood-sugar control is crucial for you, talk to your physician or nutritionist who specializes in diabetes and blood-sugar control, before using MiO regularly.
You can also use a glucometer like this one to test whether MiO has any affect for you. However, keep in mind that the blood-sugar impact of sucralose may be delayed, as it may affect blood-sugar indirectly, by first altering your gut bacteria.
8. Does MiO Have Caffeine?
MiO Energy has 60 mg of caffeine per squeeze. This is about 75% as much caffeine as a can of Red Bull. All other product lines by MiO—including Original, Vitamins, and Sport—are caffeine free.
Here is a caffeine comparison table, to help you get a feel for just how much caffeine you get per squeeze of MiO Energy:
|Bang Energy Drink (16 oz)||300 mg|
|5-Hour Energy Regular Strength (1.9 oz)||200 mg|
|Folger’s Classic Roast Coffee (12 oz)||120-160 mg|
|BodyArmor Edge (20 oz)||100 mg|
|Red-Bull (8.4 oz)||80 mg|
|Monster Energy (8 oz)||80 mg|
|V8 Energy (8 oz)||80 mg|
|MiO Energy (1 squeeze)||60mg|
|Hint Energy (16 oz)||60 mg|
|Lipton Black Tea (1 bag, brewed)||55 mg|
|Coca-Cola (12 oz)||34 mg|
|Barq’s Root Beer (12 oz)||22 mg|
As you can see, MiO Energy only has 1/5 of the caffeine of a Bang Energy Drink per serving. However, it has much more caffeine than Coca-Cola.
If you’d like to see a much larger comparison table for caffeine content, check out this page from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
MiO Energy also has some B vitamins to help provide a feeling of energy.
[Related Post: Is Sugar-Free Red Bull Healthy? 12 Things You Should Know.]
9. Does MiO Count as Water Intake?
Drinking MiO infused water still counts as “water intake,” as the water still functions the same way in your body. However, MiO also has artificial sweeteners, sodium, and other ingredients, so ideally it should not be your only beverage.
The small amount of sodium in MiO could actually help your body absorb and retain water a bit better. But if you’re drinking MiO Sport all day, you could be getting quite a lot of sodium. (See the sodium section above on that.)
Likewise, as covered above, the artificial sweeteners in MiO could alter your gut bacteria, which could lead to worse insulin sensitivity over time. Artificial sweeteners also come with other potential risks, though such risks are not well proven.
And the artificial colors in MiO may also have negative effects when consumed often. But the main risk is for children with attention deficit disorders and behavioral issues. (Review the evidence about this above.)
All that said—yes, MiO infused water intake achieves pretty much everything plain water intake achieves. It’s still mostly just water.
10. Does MiO Have Antifreeze in It?
MiO and many other flavored water products contain propylene glycol, which is a food additive also found in antifreeze, paint, and e-cigarettes. However, propylene glycol is considered safe for human consumption at the levels found in MiO.
Some Internet headlines have caused concern over the idea that MiO contains a “strange ingredient” also found in antifreeze. Such headlines are referring to propylene glycol, which is used in food… and cosmetics, and antifreeze, and more.
Interestingly, the propylene glycol in MiO does not legally need to be listed as an ingredient. This is because it is an “incidental solvent” used for “natural flavors.” But it can be found if you test the product in a lab.
Anyway, the real question is: Should you even care? Is propylene glycol safe? What is it?
Propylene glycol is a food additive and ingredient used in many personal care products. It is made synthetically from derivatives of oil and natural gas.
In food, propylene glycol is used as an anti-caking agent, antioxidant, emulsifier, processing aid, and thickener. It’s also used in antifreeze, paint, and e-cigarettes. (source)
The FDA considers propylene glycol to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). However, as is common with food additives, some people are concerned about its safety anyway.
There have been some studies suggesting possibly toxicity with propylene glycol—but nothing showing that it should be a major concern.
There have not been any toxic effects seen at levels normally consumed. There has only been one documented case of propylene glycol toxicity from food, and it resulted from someone consuming a much higher amount than usual. (source)
In the body, about half of the propylene glycol you consume is just excreted by your kidneys. The rest is normally broken down by your body into lactic acid. This is not a concern at usual levels. (source)
Some experts have been quoted saying that if you drank the pure, undiluted form of MiO, it could indeed be unhealthy. But that’s not the intended use of the product.
Realistically, the small amount of propylene glycol in MiO should not be of any practical concern. If you eat or drink other products with “natural flavors,” you’re likely already consuming propylene glycol in many of those cases, too.
11. Is the Sodium Benzoate in MiO Vitamins Harmful?
Sodium benzoate is only present in small amounts in any food. It’s limited by the FDA to make up only 0.1% of the weight of the foods it’s added to. Still, some people have health concerns. The only MiO product I checked that has sodium benzoate is MiO Vitamins.
The potential concern is that sodium benzoate is able to convert to benzene, a known carcinogen, in certain conditions. This has been a concern in soft drinks where sodium benzoate is also present with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). (source)
(Side note: MiO Vitamins does not have ascorbic acid or vitamin C as an ingredient. So theoretically there should not be any benzene in MiO Vitamins.)
There was a 2005-07 study showing that 10 of 200 soft drinks tested had more than the allowable levels of benzene (5 parts per billion). Those drinks have since been reformulated to fix the issue. But the study also showed ~60% of soft drinks had some benzene content.
The FDA has stated that the levels of benzene in soft drinks are not a risk. (source)
There have been some other concerning studies on the impacts of sodium benzoate in animals. It may raise levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, or even risk for ADHD (source). Some people also have allergic reactions to it.
The Environmental Working Group has assigned sodium benzoate a risk score of “1 to 3” on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the worst). So the overall risk is low.
Personally, after researching all this, I’m not that worried about the safety of sodium benzoate. But I’d still rather not consume it daily.
12. Is MiO Better Than Crystal Light?
MiO may be slightly better than Crystal Light’s regular product line, as MiO uses sucralose instead of the aspartame in Crystal Light. However, the most natural product would likely be Crystal Light’s “Pure” line, which is free of all artificial sweeteners and colors.
When it comes to sweeteners, most Crystal Light has aspartame, although it varies by product. Aspartame may be the most controversial artificial sweetener—often considered worse than sucralose. So in that sense, MiO may be healthier than Crystal Light.
However, “Pure” Crystal Light is free of artificial sweeteners all together. It has a mix of sugar and stevia instead, which may be better. Sugar isn’t great—but together with stevia, they can use less sugar (only 2g per serving) to get the same sweetness.
When it comes to coloring, most Crystal Light has artificial colors like Red 40 and Blue 1—so it’s on par with MiO. But the color in “Pure” Crystal Light comes from natural sources like turmeric oleoresin and black carrot extract. So, that sounds much better to me.
So, on all these counts, the most natural product seems to be Pure Crystal Light. You can buy it on Amazon here.
13. Is MiO Better Than Soda?
MiO may be healthier than soda, as it is free of all sugar and calories. MiO is also free of phosphoric acid and caramel color, two potentially harmful ingredients in cola. However, MiO has artificial sweeteners and artificial colors, which make it controversial for health in its own right.
It’s interesting to compare MiO vs soda, because they both have a mix of multiple controversial or unhealthy ingredients. But they each have a different mix.
Soda has sugar—often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. It often has phosphoric acid, too, which has been linked to osteoporosis and cavities. And some sodas have caramel color, which may contain a carcinogen.
But MiO has its own potential issues—mainly the artificial sweeteners and artificial colors. (We’ve already reviewed the potential risks with those above.)
So, which is worse? Personally, I’d opt for MiO because the risks with artificial sweeteners and colors seem less proven. But maybe that’s just me.
What about MiO vs diet soda—which is healthier? The artificial sweeteners in MiO are often used in diet soda, too. So in many cases, MiO and diet soda are more similar nutritionally.
Keep in mind, some diet sodas may be worse for you than others. For example, Fresca has artificial sweeteners—but Diet Dr Pepper has those same artificial sweeteners plus caramel color and phosphoric acid, making it even worse, in my personal view.
But neither MiO nor soda are really healthy drinks. If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to soda, you may want to try seltzer water. It’s just fizzy water with natural flavor—no sugar or artificial sweeteners or colors.
14. Is MiO Sport Better Than Gatorade?
MiO Sport has similar electrolyte content as Gatorade, without all the sugar. For this reason, some people would consider MiO healthier than Gatorade. However, MiO has artificial sweeteners, which come with other possible risks.
Personally, I’d rather drink MiO Sport than Gatorade. The sugar in Gatorade is way too much for me personally. I try to avoid spikes in my blood sugar due to how it affects my acne.
However, I wouldn’t want to drink a lot of MiO on a regular basis, either. As covered above, the sucralose could potentially have a negative effect on my insulin sensitivity and gut bacteria.
The more accurate comparison, however, would be between MiO Sport and Gatorade Zero. They’re both artificially sweetened. Really, these are quite similar nutritionally, with artificial sweeteners and artificial colors being the main concerns for most people.
Neither MiO Sport, Gatorade, nor Gatorade Zero are really the healthiest or most natural drinks.
15. Is MiO Vegan?
All flavors of MiO are generally considered vegan. They contain no milk, eggs, honey, or other animal byproducts.
The only reason I can imagine someone might say MiO isn’t vegan is due to animal testing. The artificial sweeteners and colors in MiO have been tested on animals extensively.
In my blog post about sucralose, I explained some of the extensive animal testing that was done to prove the safety of sucralose. Supposedly over 12,000 animals died in the testing of sucralose.
I covered similar details in my posts on artificial colors like Red 40.
That said, boycotting drinks like MiO today can’t undo the animal testing that was already done. So, most vegans are okay with consuming these artificial sweeteners and colors.
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