July 2, 2013

More drinks offer 'clean' energy

Companies use natural caffeine and organic ingredients to appeal to the health-conscious.

By MICHAEL HILL/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Bottles of Runa energy drink line a shelf at Dean’s Natural Foods store in Albany, N.Y. Runa’s hit the shelves recently around the country, boasting caffeine from the guayusa “super leaf.” It supposedly provides as much caffeine as coffee, with more anti-oxidants than green tea.

Photos by The Associated Press

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Guru says its 8.4-ounce can has 125 milligrams of “naturally occurring” caffeine. That’s a higher concentration than energy drinks like Monster that have 160 milligrams per 16-ounce can.

Runa's energy drink hit the shelves recently around the country. It boasts its caffeine from the guayusa "super leaf" and supposedly provides as much caffeine as coffee with more anti-oxidants than green tea.

They join non-traditional energy drinks like Guru and Steaz, which share display space with the likes of aloe juice at Dean's Natural Foods in Albany. Owner Dean King said the drinks eliminate "ridiculous stuff" like artificial flavors and colors. The kick still comes from caffeine, but some consumers say it's different.

"You know how most caffeinated products you feel that surge come over you? And then you drop and you feel miserable? This is more of an alertness," said Cheryl Fairweather, a 36-year-old vegan and athlete from the Philadelphia area who drinks a daily can of Steaz at 4 a.m. before she trains.

"It doesn't have that overwhelming effect, like you're on edge," she said.

It's typical for the caffeine in natural energy drinks to come from organic and natural sources. But in the end, as Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins University, notes, "caffeine is caffeine."

"It doesn't matter whether that compound is synthesized in a laboratory or is synthesized in a plant," he said. "It's going to have identical pharmacological, subjective and behavioral effects."

Guru said one 8.4-ounce can has 125 milligrams of "naturally occurring" caffeine. Steaz said a 12-ounce can of its energy drink contains 100 milligrams of caffeine from sustainably sourced ingredients. Ounce for ounce, that's in the ballpark of mainstream energy drinks, like Rockstar or Monster, which each deliver 160 milligrams of caffeine per 16-ounce can, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group.

The natural products generally do not make explicit health claims, opting instead to tout ingredients such as organic guarana or the lack of artificial colors. But Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says words like "natural" and "organic" printed on a can make consumers assume the contents are good for you, even if that's not necessarily so.

"It implies that there's something helpful about them, and it's totally vague," he said.

 

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