What do athletes, famous musicians, water-deprived parts of the world, and nearly three-fourths of Americans have in common? They are all at risk for dehydration. Not what you were expecting?
At the most extreme end of the spectrum are communities devastated by dehydration. As global activists focus on making clean water safe and easily accessible to these communities, Dr. Eduardo Dolhun is concerned with making the most of the water that is available. To that end, he has created a rehydration powder that, when combined with H2O, works up to one-third faster than plain water—and just as effectively. DripDrop is only a year old, but it is poised to transform how the world hydrates.
When Dolhun was on a relief mission to Guatemala in the midst of a cholera outbreak, he quickly learned how fast a water shortage could affect a community. "He witnessed many people, including children, dying from cholera-induced dehydration," says Doug Wolf, CEO of DripDrop. Some could have been saved by Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS), salt and sodium solutions that already existed, but, says Wolf, "They tasted terrible—like seawater—and patients wouldn’t drink them."
When he returned to San Francisco, Dolhun presented himself with a challenge: He wanted to find a solution that hydrated as well as the existing ORSs, but tasted better and was not cost-prohibitive. In 2007, he began working on recipes in earnest, asking patients in his family medicine practice to taste-test them.
Eighteen months later, Dolhun had a product that comes in lemon and berry flavors, a major improvement over seawater. Though it needs to be added to water to work, DripDrop claims to go further than H2O. "Water alone is not enough to effectively hydrate—our bodies need sodium and other electrolytes to activate hydration," says Wolf, explaining that these are found, along with sugars, in DripDrop’s solution and aid in faster absorption. In one study, says Wolf, "DripDrop was shown to hydrate 34% faster [than water]."
Aside from inventing a product whose flavor wouldn’t make you gag, Dolhun had another ace up his sleeve. Several of his patients, including Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, wanted to invest. Of the $11 million the company has raised from friends and family, there are other famous names, including football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and rock star Sammy Hagar. "All of the musicians who invested say they drink it on stage, under those hot lights, and share it with their crew, as travel and adventures in foreign cuisine can be dehydrating," says Wolf.
Musicians are not the only ones who have pushed demand so high that nearly 15,000 stores carry it, including CVS and Walgreens. Other users include men and women with chronic GI conditions like Crohn's disease. "These are people for whom adequate hydration is a daily problem," says Wolf. Athletes are another big market for DripDrop, as are office workers looking for something less nerve-frazzling than a cup of coffee to get over the 4 p.m. energy slump. Hospitals and military units are also stocking it to help in relief centers. Meanwhile, DripDrop is experimenting with a liquid version and is hoping to replace IV therapy in up to 90% of hospital treatments. It's the water revolution the world doesn't have to hope—or wait—for.