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The Energy Drink

By Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh for Science-Based Medicine

My stimulant of choice is coffee. I started drinking it in first-year university, and never looked back. A tiny four-cup coffee maker became my reliable companion right through graduate school.

But since I stopped needing to drink a pot at a time, an entirely new category of products has appeared — the energy drink. Targeting students, athletes, and others seeking a mental or physical boost, energy drinks are now an enormous industry: From the first U.S. product sale in 1997, the market size was $4.8 billion by 2008, and continues to grow. (1)

My precious coffee effectively has a single therapeutic ingredient, caffeine. Its pharmacology is well documented, and the physiologic effects are understood. The safety data isn’t too shabby either: it’s probably not harmful and possibly is even beneficial. (I’m talking about oral consumption — no coffee enemas. Please.) In comparison, energy drinks are a bewildering category of products with an array of ingredients including caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, and other “natural” substances and assorted “nutraceuticals,” usually in a sugar-laden vehicle (though sugar-free versions exist). Given many products contain chemicals with pharmacologic effects, understanding the risks, signs of adverse events, and potential implications on drug therapy, are important.

So are energy drinks just candied caffeine delivery systems? Or are these syrupy supplements skirting drug regulations?

The Message

The ads are seductive. Who doesn’t want more energy? Who doesn’t want their mind and body “vitalized?” And don’t we have time-starved lifestyles? Initially envisioned for athletes, energy drinks are now marketed mainly towards teens and young adults, where uptake has been dramatic. Cross-promotion with extreme sporting events, and creating names like “Full Throttle,” “Rockstar,” and even  “Cocaine” burnish the “extreme” image. The market is now segmented further with products targeted at women, vegetarians, diabetics, celiacs, and more. However you identify yourself, there’s probably an energy drink developed with you in mind. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Do Artificial Sweeteners Actually Promote Weight Gain?

When sugar-free beverages first became available, I was skeptical that they could really taste as good as “the real thing.” I quickly changed my mind. In fact, it seemed to me that the sugar-free versions actually tasted better than “the real thing.”

It seemed like a no-brainer. Sugar-free beverages had no calories and tasted better—maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch. Obviously, many people who also wanted to lose weight made the same switch. Were we right about artificial sweeteners?

Although short-term studies suggest that switching from sugar to no-calorie sweeteners can help, other research suggests it may actually promote weight gain. Writing in the December 2011 Harvard Health Letter, noted obesity researcher Dr. David Ludwig explores the possible connection between sugar substitutes and weight gain.

The FDA has approved six calorie-free sweeteners: acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, Stevia, and sucralose. They are Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Can Sugar Raise Your Blood Pressure?

Most of us know that salt raises blood pressure in many people. When I learned that in medical school almost 40 years ago, I have not touched a salt shaker since. I enjoy having a low normal blood pressure. A new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (July 2010) suggests that sugar, especially the fructose that comes from corn syrup, may also raise blood pressure.

A study team from the University of Colorado in Denver looked at sugar intake among thousands of Americans in a major national nutrition survey between 2003 and 2006. Those who consumed more added sugars, such as the fructose in soft drinks, had significantly higher blood pressures than those who did not and ate more natural foods such as fresh fruit. Fructose from corn syrup is a major cause of the obesity epidemic and may also be contributing to high blood presure, the most common chronic disease in adults. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at eDocAmerica*

A Picture Worth A Thousand Calories

Shopping for groceries the other day, my kids noticed this product that made us all stop in our tracks: Chubby Drink from Aisle 7!

Yes, this is a real product from a real major brand supermarket.

Yes, the label does read “Chubby” and shows a picture of a, well, chubby kid.

No, it’s not a new health drink. Packed into that portable, kid-sized 8-ounce container is the equivalent of 2 candy bars worth of calories and sugar.

No, you’re not being “punked” or on candid blogger or seeing a prop from SNL. This truly is a real drink sold in stores coast to coast. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

Liquid Calories And School Lunches

Bloomberg recently posted that the New York school system is going to eliminate whole milk from their cafeterias to cut calories. 4.6 billion calories and 422 billion grams of fat will be eliminated from the menu by this plan. A good plan for the kids involved. Well, at least a good start.

As the post notes, schools nationwide are working diligently to tweak menus and offer healthier alternatives for kids in all grades from elementary school to high school. Some schools, such as the school district my kids attend, use electronic payment systems where parents can log-on to see what their kids have purchased. We’ve found this helpful at times to remind our kids about healthy alternatives and how to order a healthy lunch, especially on days when they find them selves either completely ravenous or with little time, which can easily happen in a typical school day. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

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