Is Topo Chico The Next Big Wellness Water?
Peter Attia, M.D., the renowned Canadian-American physician and longevity expert, is a relative newcomer to the world of Topo Chico. But when a friend—the author, podcaster, and Austin, Texas, resident Tim Ferriss—introduced Attia to the popular mineral water early last year, an obsession was born.
"I often drink Topo Chico daily, sometimes up to four to five bottles per day but usually one to two," Attia told mindbodygreen. "As I fast for seven days once a quarter, Topo Chico helps me get through not eating food…having somewhat of a variety compared to just water is amazing."
If drinking nearly half a dozen bottles of Topo Chico a day seems extreme, consider that few brands enjoy as vociferous a devotion as this particular sparkling mineral water, which is bottled in the north Mexican city of Monterrey. For proof, one needs only to scope out the popular #TopoChico hashtag on Instagram, which conjures a plethora of images showing smartly attired social media influencers proudly displaying their bottles of Topo Chico. There's tatted-up social media guru Kat Emrick posing for her 70.1K followers with a green glass bottle of Topo Chico Twist of Grapefruit. Body positivity blogger Suma Jane Dark proudly displaying her own fresh tattoo—a detailed bottle of original Topo Chico that stretches the length of her forearm—to her 31.2K followers. San Francisco–based lifestyle blogger Kathleen Barnes drinking a Topo Chico with her favorite lunch in the city—a salad and fries from Blue Barn in SF. The list goes on and on and on. Topo Chico isn't just a drink, it's a lifestyle.
Granted, the brand has had more time to build up a following than most. Topo Chico's official origins stretch back to 1895, when its founders began bottling the water emanating from a limestone-rich spring in the foothills of the inactive Cerro del Topo Chico volcano. Over the years, it grew markedly in popularity in the U.S., particularly in the state of Texas. In 2016, sales of Topo Chico hit $58 million, an 83 percent jump in just four years. In 2017, Coca-Cola snatched it up for its portfolio, rocketing the drink to even more prominence.
But according to the drink's website, tales of the water's healing powers predate the brand and may even go back to Aztec times. Legend has it that one day in the mid-15th century, the beautiful daughter of King Moctezuma I came down with a mysterious, seemingly incurable illness. Priests conveyed to the king stories of the Cerro del Topo springs, which were rumored to bestow health, vigor, and refreshment to those who drank from and bathed in it. Spoiler alert: The princess visited the springs and was magically cured. "The news about the princess's recovery spread throughout the kingdom and has passed from generation to generation up until modern times," concludes the site.
Mineral water—and Topo Chico in particular—has long benefited from such auras of health. They may be valid: Mineral water is so-named for the minerals with which it's naturally infused. Topo Chico, for instance, includes sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese. According to a 2017 study, drinking mineral water may be an effective way to ingest those nutrients. The same study also suggests that carbonation added during bottling could aid in digestion.
Ariana Cucuzza, a registered dietitian nutritionist at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, concurs that mineral water may actually deliver in the health department.
"Mineral water commonly contains magnesium, calcium, sodium, and zinc, and may be an effective way to get these minerals as part of an overall healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds," she said. "Many people are concerned that the soil has been depleted of minerals and that we are not able to obtain as much of these minerals through food sources anymore." The only caution? People with hypertension, who need to watch their sodium intake, should consult their doctor before going hard on the mineral water.
"Mineral water can definitely have health benefits, particularly if the levels of magnesium are high," concurred Richard Firshein, D.O., a leading expert in the fields of integrative and anti-aging medicine. The benefits of magnesium, he continued, include lower blood pressure, strengthened bones, and improved digestion. "Generally speaking, it is better than drinking regular water because of the contaminants that could be in tap water like chlorine."
Granted, most folks we spoke to aren't necessarily drinking Topo Chico for the health benefits.
"I don't think it has health benefits, and if I thought it did, I would be lying to myself," said Katie Forrest, the co-founder of Austin-based ethical snack company EPIC, which makes its meat-heavy protein bars, bone broths, jerkies, and more with non-GMO ingredients and protein from cage-free egg whites. That doesn't stop her from downing several bottles of Topo Chico a week, a habit Forrest has indulged since childhood. "It's refreshing and a nice way to drink more water," she said—admittedly a health benefit if viewed in a certain light—but for her, the drink's appeal goes beyond that.
Topo Chico "fits our culture here in Austin. It's not snotty sparkling water," Forrest explained. "And [it] doesn't have added 'natural flavors' in the original flavor, which I appreciate as I avoid those mystery ingredients."
"It's the only kind of bubbles I use when making cocktails now," said food writer and editor Candolin Cook, who's based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "I tried making a Ranch Water"—a noted Texas-born cocktail—"with another mineral water, and it really wasn't the same."
Ranch Water is a particularly shining example of Topo Chico's cultural influence in Texas. Rumored to have been invented by a Fort Davis rancher in the 1960s, the light, naturally low-cal drink requires only three ingredients—tequila, lime juice, and Topo Chico—and is now essentially the unofficial cocktail of West Texas. In this corner of the world, one can find it everywhere from local dive bars to fancy, farm-to-table joints like Marfa hot spot Capri.
And yet, there are even more indications that Topo Chico enthusiasm is beginning to (always has?) bordered on madness. Take, for instance, the newly released song "Topo Chico" by Texas-born singer-songwriter Robert Ellis, which is a transparent ode to the beverage. ("If you have a predilection / For a bubbly libation / Or if you need a new addiction / With a focus on hydration / We've got just the thing.") Consider, too, the abundance of artists on Etsy selling hand-painted Vans sneakers bearing the Topo Chico logo, sometimes for as much as $250 a pair.
Will all this serve to elevate Topo Chico on the national wellness stage? Even if thought leaders aren't explicitly drinking Topo Chico for the health benefits, they're definitely, well, drinking it. That may be enough to make Topo Chico the next wellness water.
If you have any lingering doubts, consider Peter Attia's Instagram post from early April. "How in the world did you find these????" he wrote in the caption beneath an image of a gifted pair of custom-painted Topo Chico Vans sneakers. "#topochico forever!!"
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