Could vitamin-enhanced vodka make the new year a healthy one?

green cocktailLovers of martinis and cosmopolitans have long touted the medicinal benefits of alcohol. After all, it is used in all those 1960s westerns to clean wounds. And numerous studies have pointed to the health benefits of one glass of wine a day.

But now makers of the spirits are claiming their libations have honest-to-goodness health benefits.

Take Lotus Vodka, the brain child of Rob Bailey, a 38-year-old MIT grad, that's infused with caffeine and vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12, and C, plus the amino acids l-arginine and l-cysteine, and ginseng. Think of Lotus as an alcoholic combination of Red Bull and Vitamin Water. "People are watching what they consume Monday through Friday. There is no reason to stop on the weekend," Bailey, who has seen a more than 50% growth in sales this year, told Newsweek.

Of course, watching your weight while sucking down vodka martinis is a little bit like ordering a diet soda with your Big Mac. One seems to negate the other. But heck, who are we to complain?

Specialty spirits aren't new. Square One, for example, has a line of organic vodkas boosting a "progressive organic spirit" and "the purest ingredients we could find."

Is the glass half empty?
Opponents caution consumers should sip these claims lightly. Since the labeling doesn't list ingredients the same way a box of cereal does (including the percentage of recommended daily values you're getting in each serving) it's hard to know just how many vitamins you might actually drink. And, while there are some documented healthful effects such as the increase in good (hdl) cholesterol, any claims of health may be outweighed by the impact alcohol has on your weight.

Lisa Maloy, a Las Vegas-based nutritionist and personal trainer says, "The main problem with alcohol is not the number of calories it contains, but rather the effect is has on fat metabolism." And even small amounts of alcohol can have a large impact on fat metabolism. Which means no matter how many vitamins and antioxidants makers try to squeeze into each bottle, too much will leave you looking like a stuffed sausage in your skinny jeans.

In addition to affecting your metabolism and weight, alcohol interferes with social judgment and lowers inhibitions, which can lead to binge eating and the consumption of hundreds of excess calories. "So alcohol can have a double whammy on your weight," says Maloy. And on your overall health, since it's no secret obesity leads to a host of maladies like heart disease, diabetes and back pain.

That said, experts say if you're trying to chose between a vitamin-infused cocktail and a regular one, go ahead and sip on the "healthy" one. Just be prepared to pay more for that shot of vitamins and minerals. A 750 ml bottle of Square One will set you back around $33, while the same size bottle of its non-organic step-sibling, Skyy, rings up at $15.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance journalist specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.
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