12 January - 20 June 2016

Energy drinks and active components

9 Jan 13

It has been suggested that energy drinks (ED) enhance physical and cognitive performance; however, it is unclear whether the claimed benefits are attributable to components other than caffeine.  Energy drink companies have promoted their products not as caffeine-fuelled concoctions but as specifically engineered blends that provide something more.  EDs often contain taurine, guaraná, ginseng, glucuronolactone, B-vitamins, and other compounds.  A study by McLellan et al published in Nutrition Reviews notes that a typical 235 mL ED provides between 40 and 250 mg of caffeine, equating to doses that improve cognitive and, at the higher levels, physical performance..  Using a literature search, McLellan et al identified 32 articles that examined the effects of energy drink ingredients alone and/or in combination with caffeine on physical or cognitive performance.  Of these studies, 20 involved human subjects, 11 were animal models, and 1 used cell cultures.  A systematic evaluation of the evidence-based findings in these articles was then conducted. The authors report that marketing claims that taurine will increase physical and cognitive performance are not supported by the available evidence and evidence to support the addition of glucuronolactone to EDs is nonexistent.  There is some evidence to  support the beneficial effects of the glucose in EDs for improving cognitive performance for up to 60 min postingestion,  but the addition of caffeine enhanced and sustained the effects of glucose for up to 2 h postingestion.  There is some also evidence that support a caffeine-independent mechanism for the beneficial effects of extracts from the guaraná on cognitive performance in humans.  In these studies, extracts from guaraná provided doses of caffeine that were purported to be less than 10 mg. Thus, the positive effects detected could be due to the saponins and tannins in the seed of the plant, rather than the caffeine.  On investigating vitamin B complex, McLellan et al report that a balanced diet will provide sufficient levels of vitamin B complex without the need to consume EDs.   In conclusion the study states that with the exception of some weak evidence for glucose and guaraná extract, there is an overwhelming lack of evidence to substantiate claims that components of energy drinks, other than caffeine, contribute to the enhancement of physical or cognitive performance.  Additional well-designed, randomised, placebo-controlled studies replicated across laboratories are needed in order to assess claims made for these products.

RSSL’s Functional Ingredients Laboratory can quantify caffeine in foods and beverages.  For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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