Pedialyte is so interesting. It’s almost treated like medicine sometimes, as it’s often stocked by the pharmacy and baby formula. Meanwhile, many adults use it as a hangover remedy. Today, let’s explore: What does Pedialyte actually do for the body? Is it healthy?
Pedialyte is effective for rehydration after vomiting or diarrhea. It has double the electrolyte sodium and only one-third the sugar of sports drinks like Gatorade. However, Pedialyte also has highly processed artificial sweeteners and colors, making the long-term health impacts unclear.
Below, we’ll explore the ingredients and nutrition facts of Pedialyte in detail. We’ll break down whether it’s good for hydration, as well as weight loss. We’ll look at whether the sodium content is too high for you, and how much Pedialyte may be too much.
Is Pedialyte Good for You?
Here are the 14 questions we’ll address on Pedialyte nutrition. Click to skip ahead to any of them. Or just keep scrolling to read below:
- What Ingredients Are in Pedialyte?
- Does Pedialyte Have a Lot of Sugar?
- Does Pedialyte Have Artificial Sweeteners?
- Are the Artificial Colors in Pedialyte Safe?
- Does Pedialyte Have Electrolytes?
- Is Pedialyte High In Sodium?
- Is Pedialyte Good for Hydration?
- Is Pedialyte Good for Weight Loss?
- Is Pedialyte Caffeine Free?
- Does Pedialyte Count As Water Intake?
- Is Pedialyte Good for You When You’re Sick?
- Is Pedialyte Better for You Than Gatorade?
- Can You Drink Too Much Pedialyte?
- Is Pedialyte Vegan?
1. What Ingredients Are in Pedialyte?
Let’s start by looking at what Pedialyte actually contains. Pedialyte has quite a few different product lines, but let’s just review three of the most popular.
I’ll share my takeaway points below the table:
|AdvancedCare Plus (Berry Frost)||Water, Dextrose; Less than 1.0% of: Galactooligosaccharides, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Zinc Gluconate.|
|Pedialyte Sport (Fruit Punch)||Water, Dextrose; Less than 1% of: Galactooligosaccharides, Salt, Potassium Citrate, Citric Acid, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Potassium Phosphate, Magnesium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, and Red 40.|
|AdvancedCare with Immune Support (Strawberry Lemonade)||Water, Dextrose, Less than 1.0% of: Galactooligosaccharides, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Zinc Gluconate, Red 40, Blue 1.|
Here’s what I notice about these ingredients:
- Pedialyte has added sugar. Pedialyte is sweetened with a mix of dextrose and artificial sweeteners. Dextrose is a form of sugar that is efficient at raising blood sugar. It can help with dehydration and hypoglycemia. But is it too much sugar to drink regularly? We’ll look more at Pedialyte’s sugar content below.
- Pedialyte has artificial sweeteners. Specifically, it has sucralose and acesulfame potassium. These sweeteners make Pedialyte more palatable to kids while keeping the sugar content ideal for rehydration. However, some research points to concerns with these sweeteners, mainly with gut health. More about this below.
- Pedialyte has added electrolytes. This is the main point of drinks like Pedialyte. They help replace electrolytes like sodium and potassium as you lose them in diarrhea, vomit, or sweat. Pedialyte has even far more electrolytes than Gatorade. But does Pedialyte have too much sodium for some people? We’ll cover that below.
- Most flavors of Pedialyte have artificial colors. The flavors I checked specifically have Red 40 and Blue 1. These dyes are controversial for their possible health effects‚ most notably for causing hyperactivity in some children. We’ll explore this more below.
Pedialyte has several ingredients that are not traditionally considered very “healthy”—added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial colors. However, these ingredients do serve a purpose in Pedialyte.
The sugar has a direct purpose in rehydration, and the artificial ingredients are meant to make the drink more appealing to children, so you can get your kids to actually drink enough to get rehydrated.
So, in cases of actual dehydration, Pedialyte’s ingredients seem fine—they get the job done. However, if you’re considering drinking Pedialyte every day on an ongoing basis, then some of the processed ingredients could be a concern over time.
See the sections below on sugar content, artificial sweeteners, and artificial colors for details on what the specific long-term concerns would be.
2. Does Pedialyte Have a Lot of Sugar?
Pedialyte has 7g of sugar per 12 fl oz serving, which is relatively low sugar content compared to most drinks. Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus has about one-half the sugar of Vitamin Water, one-third of the sugar of Gatorade, and one-fifth of the sugar of Simply Orange juice.
Pedialyte’s “sugar” is dextrose, which is basically the same thing as glucose. It’s a form of sugar that is absorbed into the blood very rapidly—so it’s great for raising blood sugar levels when needed. But that means it can also cause unwanted blood-sugar spikes.
When it comes to questions of getting “too much added sugar” on an ongoing basis, it doesn’t matter much if it’s “dextrose,” “sugar,” or “high fructose corn syrup.” They are all added sugar, after all.
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 25g of added sugar per day for women and 36g per day for men. That’d be ~3.5 servings per day of Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus for women, or ~5 servings per day for men, if you got no other sugar.
Here is a table showing Pedialyte’s sugar content, compared to other drinks for context:
|Drink||Total Sugar (in 12 fl oz)|
|Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus||7g|
|V8 Tomato Juice||10g|
|Simply Orange Juice||34g|
|Welch’s Grape Juice||52g|
As you can see, Pedialyte has less sugar than most of the sports drinks that also provide electrolytes. The lower sugar of Pedialyte makes it better for serious rehydration after diarrhea. Too much sugar can draw extra water into the intestines, making diarrhea worse. (source)
3. Does Pedialyte Have Artificial Sweeteners?
Pedialyte has two artificial sweeteners, sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Both of these sweeteners are FDA approved and generally recognized as safe, but there remains some controversy around the long-term health impacts of each.
First off—the artificial sweeteners in Pedialyte do serve a purpose. They make the drink delicious enough that kids will gladly drink enough of it for rehydration, without having too much sugar.
But do these sweeteners have any downsides? Well, the most controversial artificial sweetener is probably aspartame. Personally, I try to avoid aspartame because of the possible connections to depression. Pedialyte does not have aspartame.
Let’s look at the specific concerns around the artificial sweeteners Pedialyte does have—sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
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 on that below).
- Sucralose seems to be surprisingly unhelpful for weight loss. Replacing sugar with sucralose did not result in the weight loss you’d expect from the calorie reduction.
What about acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K)?
- Studies in the 1970s suggested that acesulfame K might cause cancer—but the studies were not good 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—they are just concerns—and research will keep telling us more in the years to come. But for some people, the potential risks feel scary nonetheless.
If you or your child are just drinking a few liters of Pedialyte to rehydrate as needed, you probably don’t need to worry at all. If you drink it often, you may want to do more research into sucralose and acesulfame potassium to see if you’re truly comfortable with them.
If you want to drink Pedialyte without artificial sweeteners, then you can try the Pedialyte Organic line. Those appear to be free of artificial sweeteners. However, they still have stevia, a natural zero-calorie sweetener.
4. Are the Artificial Colors in Pedialyte Safe?
Most flavors of Pedialyte have artificial colors like Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1. Research suggests artificial colors cause hyperactivity and behavioral issues in some children. There are also concerns around possible carcinogens in artificial colors used in Pedialyte.
In 2004, researchers from Harvard and Columbia University estimated that removing artificial food coloring from the diets of children with ADHD would be about one-third or one-half as effective as treating them with Ritalin.
Some research has suggested that as little as 50 mg per day of artificial food colorings could cause behavioral changes in children.
There may also be cancer risks from some of these artificial colors, but the evidence is not solid:
- 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.
- Yellow 5: A 2015 study found that Yellow 5 caused DNA damage in human white blood cells that it was exposed to. It’s possible this could lead to tumor formation if it were to happen in amounts that can’t be repaired.
- Yellow 6: Yellow 6 often contains carcinogenic contaminants benzidine and 4-amino-biphenyl. However, they’ve only been documented at low levels where it shouldn’t be an issue. There were also animal trials where Yellow 6 resulted in the formation of adrenal tumors, but the validity of that research is disputed. (source, source)
- Blue 1: An unpublished study on Blue 1 suggested it may cause tumors in mice. In addition, a test-tube study found Blue 1 inhibited nerve cell development. So the effect on unborn fetuses may be of concern. (source)
These artificial colors are still being tested on animals to clarify exactly how safe they are long-term. The most established problem with artificial colors is hyperactivity in kids. Some governments have taken steps to add warnings or ban artificial colors.
If you want to drink Pedialyte without artificial colors, then try out the Pedialyte Organic line. Those appear to be free of artificial colors.
5. Does Pedialyte Have Electrolytes?
Pedialyte has more electrolytes than sports drinks. A 12-oz serving of Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus has 370mg of sodium, 280mg of potassium, 2.8mg of zinc, 11mcg of selenium, and 440mg of chloride. Pedialyte has more than double the sodium and five times the potassium of Gatorade.
Here is a table showing the sodium and potassium content of Pedialyte compared to sports drinks:
|Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus||370mg||280mg|
|Pedialyte With Immune Support||490mg||280mg|
|BodyArmor (Blue Raspberry)||30mg||530mg|
|BodyArmor Lyte (Watermelon)||30mg||530mg|
|BodyAmor Edge (Strawberry Slam)||30mg||530mg|
|Gatorade Thirst Quencher (Fruit Punch)||160mg||50mg|
As you can see, BodyArmor sports drink actually has more potassium than Pedialyte, due to being made with coconut water. However, in terms of sodium, Pedialyte definitely provides more than the common sports drinks per serving.
In fact, you may have noticed a trend where NBA players are drinking Pedialyte instead of Gatorade during games. The explanation is apparently the higher sodium content of Pedialyte.
But are the sodium levels in Pedialyte excessive if you’re not seriously dehydrated?
6. Is Pedialyte High In Sodium?
Most Pedialyte drinks have 370mg to 490mg of sodium per 12 fl oz serving. This is a high amount of sodium, ideal for rehydration but somewhat high for drinking daily. It’d only take 3-4 servings of Pedialyte to reach the American Heart Association’s “ideal limit” of 1,500mg of sodium per day.
Pedialyte is formulated for serious rehydration, like after diarrhea or vomiting. As such, it has quite a serious amount of sodium. Particularly if you have high blood pressure, this could be a concern if you drank a lot regularly.
Drinking one serving of Pedialyte should be fine for most people anytime. But if you drink whole liters of Pedialyte on a regular basis, you could be getting a lot more sodium than you realize.
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 are given a limit of 1,500 mg, too.
Considering all this—yes, Pedialyte is high in sodium. It’s not quite as high in sodium as a can of soup or a frozen dinner, but it is high in sodium. Exercise caution appropriately.
7. Is Pedialyte Good for Hydration?
Pedialyte is an excellent choice for hydration, particularly in cases of vomiting, diarrhea, or intense sweating, as it helps replace lost electrolytes. However, for normal daily needs, plain water is likely the healthiest drink to stay hydrated.
In situations where you’ve lost a lot of fluids and electrolytes, drinking too much plain water can cause problems. I experienced this once myself when I was drinking lots of water in the heat. I ended up going to the hospital for “salt depletion heat exhaustion.”
The added electrolytes in Pedialyte make it a suitable “oral rehydration solution” (ORS). So if you’ve been losing fluids or sweat, it can be a great choice.
However, in normal day-to-day life, water is the ideal drink for most of your fluids. It has none of the sugar, artificial colors, or artificial sweeteners found in Pedialyte. Plain water is what our bodies evolved to drink day-to-day.
If you hate plain water and you just want a tastier option you can sip all day, I’d look at Hint Water, Bubly, or Spindrift. Their ingredients are very minimal, and you could probably drink quite a lot before you’d run into any problems.
8. Is Pedialyte Good for Weight Loss?
Pedialyte has less than half of the calories of most sports drinks and other sweetened beverages, so it could be a good choice for weight loss. However, it’s not clear how the artificial sweeteners in Pedialyte could affect bodyweight.
A 12-ounce serving of Gatorade has about 80 or 85 calories, while the same serving of Pedialyte only has 35 calories. So, making that swap could potentially lead to gradual weight loss, if everything else in your diet and lifestyle stayed the same.
Pedialyte also comes in an even lower-calorie version, called Pedialyte Electrolyte Water. It only has 5 calories per 12-ounce serving. So, that drink may be even more appealing to dieters.
However, Pedialyte has artificial sweeteners (sucralose and acesulfame potassium). And the evidence is mixed on how these sweeteners effect bodyweight.
Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners are surprisingly ineffective for weight loss. Some evidence even suggests they can cause unintended weight gain. This could be due to changes in gut bacteria after consuming artificial sweeteners.
So, despite the calorie reduction from switching to Pedialyte, it’s not clear whether everyone would actually lose weight in practice.
But always remember: The key to weight loss is your overall diet and calorie balance. One drink won’t make or break your diet. Pedialyte can be part of a weight-loss diet—but don’t expect it to do all the work for you.
If your goal is weight loss, you may want to consider tracking your calories as I describe in this post—or follow some of these 18 tips for weight loss without counting calories.
- Does Pedialyte cause weight gain? Pedialyte does not necessarily cause weight gain or weight loss. Weight management depends mostly on your total calorie balance (calories consumed vs calories burned), not just on one specific food or beverage consumed.
9. Is Pedialyte Caffeine Free?
Pedialyte does not contain caffeine. It is sometimes used as a sports drink, but it is not an energy drink. It is not advertised as providing caffeine, and none of the ingredients have caffeine naturally. Pedialyte should not keep you awake.
10. Does Pedialyte Count As Water Intake?
Pedialyte is mostly water, so for most purposes, it counts as “water intake.” However, as Pedialyte also has sugar, artificial sweeteners and colors, and high amounts of sodium, it should not entirely replace water in your diet.
The high amounts of sodium would be the biggest risk of drinking Pedialyte all day long. So I don’t recommend replacing all water with Pedialyte.
- Is Pedialyte better than water? Pedialyte is better than plain water if you have recently lost a lot of fluids and electrolytes from vomiting, diarrhea, or intense sweating. However, on a normal day, it is healthier to drink plain water most of the time.
11. Is Pedialyte Good for You When You’re Sick?
In most cases when you’re sick, plain water should be your main drink. However, especially in cases of vomiting or diarrhea, an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte can help aid in rehydration.
When it comes to “electrolyte” drinks, experts say that sports drinks are too high in sugar and too low in electrolytes to actually help you when you’re sick. But what about Pedialyte?
Pedialyte has significantly more sodium and less sugar than sports drinks. As such, it can effectively help you rehydrate from vomiting or diarrhea. In fact, Pedialyte has a page all about recovering from stomach flu on their website.
You can also make your own homemade oral rehydration solution, as recommended by the World Health Organization:
“Simply combine a quart of water, half a teaspoon of salt and six teaspoons of sugar for a WHO-approved solution to replace the body’s fluids.” – NY Daily News
12. Is Pedialyte Better for You Than Gatorade?
Pedialyte is significantly lower in sugar and calories than Gatorade, which may make it healthier in most cases. However, the extra sugar in Gatorade may make it better as a sports drink to fuel prolonged, intense exercise.
Pedialyte and Gatorade were both formulated for specific purposes. They both provide electrolytes and sugar, but in a different balance.
If you’re dealing with diarrhea or vomiting, Pedialyte is probably the better choice, as it’s formulated specifically for that. In the case of diarrhea, the extra sugar in Gatorade could actually draw fluid into the intestines, making diarrhea worse. (source)
On the flip side, if you’re trying to fuel a very long, intense workout, Gatorade may be better. It’s possible that Pedialyte wouldn’t provide enough simple carbohydrates to keep your energy levels high for hours on end.
Here are a couple more factors to consider about the healthiness of each:
- Both Gatorade and Pedialyte have artificial colors (in most flavors). We covered the risks of artificial colors above—the main one is hyperactivity in some children.
- Pedialyte has artificial sweeteners, which could be bad for gut health and other issues, as noted above. Regular Gatorade does not have these sweeteners—it just has sugar instead. Meanwhile, Gatorade Zero is entirely sweetened with artificial sweeteners.
Overall, Pedialyte looks a bit healthier for most people in most situations. But if you need the extra carbs for energy, then Gatorade could be a sensible choice. However, both drinks have artificial colors that may cause hyperactivity in children. (source)
- Is Pedialyte healthier than Powerade? Powerade is nutritionally almost exactly the same as Gatorade, so you could read back the whole answer about Gatorade above, and it would apply to Powerade, too.
- Is Pedialyte healthier than BodyArmor? BodyArmor has more natural ingredients than Pedialyte, as it’s free of artificial colors and sweeteners, and it has real coconut water. But Pedialyte is probably still better for cases of vomiting and diarrhea, as it is properly formulated for that use.
- Is Pedialyte healthier than Propel? Propel is lower in calories than Pedialyte, and it doesn’t have artificial colors, which is likely a good thing. However, Pedialyte is probably still better for cases of vomiting and diarrhea, as it is formulated for that use.
13. Can You Drink Too Much Pedialyte?
How much Pedialyte can you drink per day? Let’s start by looking at the official answer from Pedialyte’s website. Their answer is given for children specifically:
“For infants under 1 year of age: Consult your doctor. For children 1 year and older: Begin with small frequent sips every 15 minutes, increasing serving size as tolerated. Continue for as long as diarrhea is present. To maintain proper hydration, 4–8 servings (32 to 64 fl oz) of Pedialyte may be needed per day. Consult your doctor if vomiting, fever, or diarrhea continues beyond 24 hours or if consumption needs are greater than 2 liters (64 fl oz) per day. ” (source)
In this answer, Pedialyte seems to be saying that 2 liters per day is the upper end of what should normally be used to maintain proper hydration—even in a situation with ongoing diarrhea. Beyond that point, you should consult a doctor.
What if you’re just using Pedialyte as a sports drink, as a hangover remedy, or just because you enjoy the taste? For most healthy adults, the main reason to limit your Pedialyte intake would be the sodium content.
The American Heart Association’s normal recommendation for sodium intake is to stay under 2,300 mg per day. However, they are “moving toward an ideal limit” of 1,500 mg per day.
One liter of Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus has 1,380mg of sodium, which is already over half the sodium you should normally consume in a day. So, if you don’t have acute needs for rehydration, it’s probably best to limit yourself to one liter of Pedialyte per day.
If you go beyond that, the risk is just consuming too much sodium—especially if you drink multiple liters of Pedialyte every day. Excess sodium can lead to high blood pressure over time, which is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
14. Is Pedialyte Vegan?
Pedialyte is generally considered vegan. It has no milk, eggs, honey, or other animal byproducts.
However, here is one small caveat: If you’re a very picky vegan, you may take issue with the sugar contained in Pedialyte. It’s common for non-organic cane sugar to be filtered with animal bone char. Most vegans are okay with that, but some may prefer to avoid it.
If you’re a picky vegan and you want to avoid bone-char-filtered sugar, you can just choose Pedialyte Organic. Problem solved!
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