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GETTING INTO GEAR

It's 'Water' With a Bit of a Kick

March 09, 1998|KATHLEEN DOHENY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The newest oxygen-enhanced water, due to hit Southern California store shelves and health clubs in April, has more oxygen than its four or five competitors and seven times the oxygen saturation of plain water, says Kenn Visser, spokesman for Life O2 International of Sarasota, Fla., the developer.

But the new product won't be labeled "water" for sale in California, Visser says, after officials from the state's Department of Health Services informed him that "oxygenated water" is not a defined term under U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations for bottled water.

So, the name will be Life O2 Super Oxygenated Drink.

Our taste test: Life O2 looks like water, feels like water, and--as one of our taste testers so glumly put it--"tastes just like water."

"We believe the [Life O2] water elevates the blood oxygen level," Visser says. The idea is to enhance athletic performance. In a study sponsored by Life O2, 25 subjects, ages 21-59, were evaluated on three occasions--at baseline, after one week of drinking bottled water and after one week of drinking Life O2. Downing the oxygen-enhanced drink shaved 15 seconds off overall 5K times, a company representative said.

"Spurious claims," says Manfred Kroger, professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University and a board member of the Drinking Water Research Foundation, an arm of the International Bottled Water Assn. that funds research on bottled water. "This is a weak study. Twenty-five people is too few. Even if the oxygen does get to the bloodstream, can it stay there and does it help performance?"

Alicia McDonough, a USC professor of physiology and biophysics, says that taking a couple of deep breaths might net the same effect.

"A small amount of oxygen from the water would probably get to the intestine, but not make it to the bloodstream because the epithelial layer of the intestine is too much of a barrier," she said.

A 20-ounce bottle of Life O2 Super Oxygenated Drink will retail for about $1.50. For availability, call (800) 441-1792.

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Through Polarized Lenses: Polaroid has introduced a new line of low-glare (and high priced) sunglasses called xoor with lenses that promise to eliminate UVA and UVB radiation and distortion while reducing 99.9% of glare with a polarizing filter.

Our wear test of the Shaker, a sleek silver-framed model, one of several options in the line: They're comfortable, look good and give a crystal-clear view even in bright sun.

Downside: the cost. Shaker is $135 a pair; some xoor models are $145.

Glasses that cost much less can also block UV rays sufficiently. The benefit of Polaroid's new glasses seems to be glare reduction, says Jay Schlanger, an optometrist on staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and past president of the Los Angeles County Optometric Society. "A polarizing filter does eliminate a lot of glare."

His guidelines: Sunglasses costing less than about $20 probably have lower-quality lenses. To get the most for your money, consider shopping for well-known brands at major sporting goods stores, which often buy in volume and can offer lower prices.

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Better Than No Helmet? Maybe Not: For skaters, snowboarders and skateboarders who shun safety helmets, there's the Skullcap. This hard plastic disk, about 5 inches in diameter, has plastic tabs that attach to a baseball cap to keep it in place.

"We fully understand and accept the fact that a helmet is better," says Kevin O'Rourke of Skullcap Inc. The device is meant, he says, for helmet holdouts. In company-commissioned studies, the Skullcap gave protection at falls up to 6 feet, O'Rourke says.

A medical opinion, please?

"The concept sounds good," says Dr. Steven Anderson, a Seattle pediatrician who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on sports medicine and fitness. "But I worry about products like this until they have been really tested and approved." His other concern: Kids wearing it will have a false sense of security and perhaps engage in riskier activity.

Parents should pass on this product, says Dr. Fred Rivara, pediatrician and director of Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Program at the University of Washington, Seattle, and a leading expert on bicycle helmet safety.

By telephone order, $14.95, (888)-USA-4707.

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For Those Not Into Chafing: Vaseline and other lubricants have long helped exercisers prevent or treat blisters and chafing. A newer option is Sportslick, billed as "the ultimate skin lubrication for athletes" by its two Los Angeles manufacturers, a triathlete and a marathoner. The new formula, introduced in January, omits the sunscreen found in the original formula and adds an antifungal and an antibacterial ingredient.

A 3.8-ounce tube retails at sporting-goods and running stores for about $8; a portable five-eighths-ounce tube is about $2. For availability, call (800) 646-8448.

Our skin test: It's less greasy than Vaseline and slides on smoothly. Smells fresh, too.

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