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Energy Drinks Under Investigation by New York State Attorney General: Is it Worth the Fight?

By Rachel Berman, RD Director of Nutrition at

Just as the new school year is getting underway and students everywhere are looking for a pick-me-up to stay focused in class, the NY State Attorney General announced his investigation of energy drinks and the safety of their caffeine levels. You might remember a couple of years ago when the USDA forced removal of products from the marketplace, such as Four Loko, which added caffeine to alcohol. They deemed it unsafe since caffeine masks the depressant qualities of alcohol and people who mix the two are more likely to binge drink, according to studies.

However, it seems like there’s a new product appearing every week touting its ability to keep you awake and energized. Energy drinks are a billion-dollar industry, the fastest growing segment of the beverage market, and they generally contain caffeine, other plant based supplements, simple sugars and additives to achieve their goal. According to the CDC, about one-third of teenage Americans consume energy drinks. But the problem is that the drinks are considered dietary supplements and therefore aren’t tightly regulated by the FDA like other foods and beverages. So can energy drinks be bad for your health?

Cap the caffeine

The caffeine content listed on energy drinks doesn’t usually exceed the recommended 400 mg per day for adult. However, if you’re downing more than one or mixing with coffee, soda, and other caffeinated beverages, you might be getting more than you need. The FDA recognizes caffeine as a drug and regulates the amount found in carbonated soft drinks, but not in energy drinks. Too much caffeine can cause increased heart beat, interrupted sleep, irritability, and nervousness. In addition, some studies have found that high caffeine content in energy drinks results in irregular heart beat and increased blood pressure.
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Kristen Stewart’s Breakup Diet is Pushing Her Toward an Eating Disorder

After a nasty split with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart is apparently not doing well. The Hollywood actress is subsisting primarily on Red Bull and cigarettes while keeping as low a profile as possible.

A source close to her also said Stewart is looking pale and worn-out. Stewart and Pattinson’s relationship lasted nearly four years and ended when Stewart admitted to an affair with her Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders.

The insider said, “Kristen is a nervous wreck and existing on a diet of cigarettes, sugar-free Red Bull and the occasional bag of potato chips…Whenever anyone tries to push her to eat even a small bowl of soup, she either claims that she’s just had something, which isn’t true, or that she’s nauseous and there’s no chance of keeping anything down.”
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Celsius: Your Negative Calorie Fitness Drink

“Negative calorie?” These are the words I read as I was asked to sample a new drink product on the market called Celsius. Out of sheer curiosity, I agreed to try the new beverage to see if it truly lived up to its tag line: “Your Ultimate Fitness Partner.”

Celsius claims to be a ‘negative calorie drink.’ And is also very clear not to call itself an energy drink, which have been linked to numerous adverse effects. Celsius markets itself as a drink that has been clinically shown to burn calories, provide long-lasting energy, and when combined with exercise, reduce body fat and energize metabolism.

Claims about the drink’s functions are backed by seven clinical studies, all of which were conducted at various locations to test individual claims of the product.

Celsius claims that their studies show moderate exercise combined with the drink can burn 100 calories per each 10 calorie, 12 ounce can. Additionally, Celsius claims to increase metabolism, provide energy, help reduce body fat, and improve endurance. All of these results can be expected when the drink is used as a pre-workout supplement, and the company claims the “MetaPlus” ingredient is where the power lies.
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Vote Tabled: New Amendment May Bring Big Changes to the Supplement Industry

UPDATE May 25, 2012: Yesterday’s vote regarding Senator Durbin’s proposed amendment to the pending FDA Safety and Innovation Act was tabled. A Senate vote of 77 to 20 has removed Durbin’s amendment from consideration in the overall bill.

Durbin sponsored an amendment that would change the current FDA regulation of natural supplements and potentially cause many products to be removed from shelves. His amendment was introduced on Tuesday, May 22 and the voting took place two days later. In two days’ time supplement industries, consumer rights organizations, along with the Natural Products Association (NPA), American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and Citizens for Health sent word to their supporters urging them to contact their Senators to oppose Durbin’s plan. As a result, the amendment was not passed and no change will occur to the current law regarding natural supplements. According to the Natural Products Insider, AHPA President Michael McGuffin is very pleased.

“I have worked with my colleagues from each of the other supplement trade associations over the last several days in this call for prompt and cooperative action, and I am pleased that this effort reaffirms the incredible unity of the dietary supplement industry when legislative threats to DSHEA emerge.”

A vote that takes place today could mean a major change for the supplement industry.

Illinois Senator Richard Durbin has proposed an amendment that would require supplement manufacturers to register with the FDA. Due to the terms of this amendment, if passed, many supplements will be ripped from shelves within the next 30 days.

The vote is scheduled to take place this afternoon, Thursday, May 24. If Durbin’s plan is accepted, a mandate will be placed on supplements requiring information to be provided to the FDA. That information includes a description of the supplement, a list of ingredients, a label for all supplements, and updated information for each new, reformulated, or discontinued product. All of these requirements will fall under the Senate FDA Re-authorization for User Fees bill.

If this amendment passes, supplement companies that fail to register with the FDA within 30 days will be considered “mis-branded” and may be subject to severe financial fees and possibly even jail time.

Currently, supplements operate under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). This act states that the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring the safety of a supplement before it is marketed. The FDA is only involved if a product is found to be unsafe after it’s on the market.

While the amendment will affect pills and natural food supplements, Durbin seems to be most concerned about the content of energy drinks. He has even referenced a case of a young woman who died as a result of using an energy drink. The senator wants the FDA to evaluate the difference between a drink and a liquid dietary supplement, and feels energy drinks are dodging regulations by claiming to be a dietary supplement. If they were categorized as drinks they would have to be regulated like all other food and drink products.

Natural supplement suppliers and users have had a short window to petition their local senators and encourage them to vote against the amendment. Due to this, tomorrow may bring major change to the natural supplement industry as we know it.

Also Read:

Energy Drinks May be Doing Permanent Damage to Your Teeth 

Supplements 101: 4 Beneficial Diet Supplements 

Create Your Own Supplement Bar

Energy Drinks May be Doing Permanent Damage to Your Teeth

Before you pick up that Red Bull, consider what it may do to your teeth first.

A new study published in General Dentistry showed that energy drinks can damage the enamel of your teeth, and possibly with irreversible effects as enamel doesn’t return once it’s gone. And it’s the citric acid  – most commonly found in citrus fruit juices – that’s doing most of the damage.

Citric acid is used in products like energy drinks to add a tart bite, and also to lengthen shelf life as it acts as a natural preservative.

The study was prompted by the statistic that an estimated 30-50% of teenagers are drinking energy drinks on a regular basis, meaning the primary concern is with kids. The most alarming part about damage done to tooth enamel is that it leaves the teeth prone to cavities and decay.

Lead author in the study, Poonam Jain, is an associate professor in the School of Dental Medicine at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Concerning the health risks sugar alone can pose, she said, “We are well aware of the damage that sugar does in the mouth and in the whole body – the role it can play in obesity, diabetes, etc. But the average consumer is not very well aware that acid does all kinds of damage, too.”
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