Energy Drink of the Month — May 2015 Celsius

Based on recalls, litigation, adverse event reports, and consumer complaints, some of the riskiest product categories are energy drinks, weight-loss supplements and sexual health products. If you thought energy drinks got a lot of scrutiny in the press and by politicians, just image the pressure for a product that is both an energy drink and a weight loss supplement.  For those on quests to become more informed consumers, examining such a product is a wonderful, often enlightening exercise.  Moreover, May is the perfect month to examine such a product for two reasons: students are more likely to try new caffeinated products as they try to cram for finals; and figure-conscious individuals may be more likely to try a product they believe will help them reclaim their beach-ready body for summer. A product that is both an energy drink and a weight-loss product fulfills both types of curiosity.

The Energy Drink of the Month for May 2015 is Celsius Raspberry Acai Green Tea.

THREE-SIXTY DEGREES CELSIUS — Honest Product Review from Food Scientist, Gym Rat, Caffeine Aficionado

FIVE POINTS OF PRAISE

  1. One whole can is one whole serving. That makes it easier to understand EXACTLY what you’re getting and how much of it. No Portion-Distortion here.
  2. Though caffeine is part of the “Meta-Plus Proprietary Blend”, the amount of total caffeine IS stated on the can. One serving is one can, which offers 200 mg caffeine. This amount of caffeine is the maximum amount recognized safe as a single dose, according to European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Opinion on Caffeine Safety. According to this study, 200mg doses don’t raise safety concerns even when consumed less than two hours before intense exercise.
    ***Note that healthy adults can have up to 400mg caffeine per day, and also please note it is never recommended to “chug” your energy drink [See Duh-Alert: AHA says chugging caffeine is bad for the heart]
  3. The amounts of vitamins aren’t crazy. I roll my eyes when I see mega-doses of Vitamin B12 (which doesn’t actually do anything unless you’re deficient), or any fortification with Vitamin B5 (which is in almost every food group imaginable so there’s no need to fortify). Some supplements go a little overboard with Vitamin B3, but over 35mg of this can make some people flush and itchy. The B-vitamins are water-soluble, but that doesn’t mean that more is better.

    Celsius Raspberry Acai Green Tea GreenEyedGuide
    Product Claims
  4. The product claims highlight the ways this product is different from the energy drink stereotype. Even their Warning Statement is grammatically correct: “Not recommended for people who are caffeine sensitive, children under 12, or women pregnant or nursing.” I can’t help but chuckle when I read a Warning Statement that says, “Consult with a healthcare professional if you are pregnant.” Gee, thanks for the tip, but I was going to ride these 9 months doctor-free and deliver in a bathtub. In contrast to the warning statement which offers general health advice and cannot be read literally, Celsius’s statement actually refers to the product.
  5.  The label makes it very obvious this product does not magically make your fat disappear. Celsius is your workout buddy, your “Ultimate Fitness Partner”, and it’s made clear in the side-panel Marketing blurb the product doesn’t work if you’re not exercising.

FIVE BURNS of Celsius – The NEGATIVE POINTS

  1. The words “clinically proven” makes me raise my eyebrows as a scientist. It’s actually rather difficult to clinically prove anything related to weight-loss because there’s always confounding factors. In this case, the increased metabolism, reduced body fat, and improved endurance are typical results of studies that make people exercise, especially if any type of caffeine is involved. It’s common knowledge caffeine improves athletic performance, but the magnitude of those improvements depend on whether the person is an athlete or a gym rat; an occasional coffee drinker or a coffee/tea-holic.
  2. The front of the can says, “Your Calorie-Reducing drink” and yet there is a supplement facts panel. A product is not allowed to have a supplement facts panel if it is referred to as a “drink” or beverage. If it is truly a drink, it must have a “Nutrition Facts” panel, while supplements need a “Supplement Facts” panel and have different regulations for the fact panel layout and content. This may not seem like a big deal, but there are countless FDA Warning letters to companies that demonstrate this product-category confusion.
  3. This product always dries my mouth out. This astringent effect is common with certain tannins in tea and Premium Brewed Green Tea is a predominant ingredient. Ginger root extract may also affect some people this way.
  4. While the amount of caffeine is stated, there are other components of the “Meta-Plus Proprietary Blend” that I would prefer to see itemized. For instance, how much taurine and green tea leaf extract? How much ginger root? The missing amounts don’t concern me as a consumer, but knowing those amounts would fascinate me as a scientist.
  5. Again, the diction grammar bothers me. The side panel of this product says “Celsius burns up to 100 extra calories and more.” How can you burn UP TO 100 calories AND MORE? Which one is it? Also, the expression “calorie reducing” isn’t exactly the same thing as burning calories, but Celsius, the “calorie reducing drink” is supposed to help one burn more calories. Add in the fact that a calorie is a unit measuring energy and the “calorie reducing drink” that gives one “lasting energy”, and we’ve got QUITE THE PARADOX!

BOTTOM LINE

Overall this is not my favorite product, but it’s one that I do enjoy from time to time. Since it’s not carbonated, it’s less likely to upset my stomach if I drink it en route to my morning workout. There is a decent kick from the caffeine, but as a science-nerd I get just as big a kick out of reading the label. There’s nothing wrong with the ingredients but the caffeine may be strong for some people. If this product and its calorie-reducing promises help you commit to going to the gym instead of going home or sleeping in, then it can be a great product to try at least once!

— GreenEyedGuide

Related Reading and Other Links

For more caffeine and energy drink information, don’t forget to find your copy of

ARE YOU A MONSTER OR A ROCK STAR? A Guide to Energy Drinks – How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely

Energy drinks explained: ingredients, safety tips and consumption tricks. 

10 thoughts on “Energy Drink of the Month — May 2015 Celsius

  • We enjoyed your article, but your comment regarding Celsius using a Supplement Panel in lieu of a Nutritional Panel is incorrect. We spoke with the FDA this morning and were told that many energy drink companies opt for using a Supplement Panel, and that the FDA allows such use even if the company calls their product a “drink”

    • Thank you for reading the article, and thank you for the feedback. My comment regarding the beverage/supplement distinction is based off this article regarding the FDA Guidance issued in 2014; quoting from the BevNet article Beverage or Supplement?, “However, other than the possibility that the use of “beverage,” “drink,” or other names traditionally associated with conventional foods and beverages may cause a product to be “represented as a conventional food,” it still seems that no one factor is likely to make the FDA consider a product labeled as a dietary supplement to be a beverage. The evaluation of whether the characterization of a product as a supplement is appropriate is still going to be made on a case-by-case basis. The Final Guidance emphasizes some of the factors the FDA previously identified regarding packaging, serving size and recommendations for use, while providing a few more examples of situations which may cause a product to be deemed a beverage.” http://www.bevnet.com/magazine/issue/2014/beverage-or-supplement

  • Unfortunately, it seems that Celsius has deviated from its prior adherence to NAD (National Advertising Division of The Better Business Bureau) guidelines when it comes to promoting its products. Hip-hop mogul and celebrity Russell Simmons has recently taken to the airwaves to discuss his investment in the brand. The NAD made it very clear that Celsius could only make its calorie-burning claims within the context of using the product in conjunction with exercise. Mr Simmons has decided to ignore those guidelines with his claims that “You’ll lose 100 calories just by drinking it”.

    http://altitradepartners.blogspot.com/2015/06/june-20th-research-notes-trade-blog.html

    We would look for regulators to take a close look at what is going on here, including the SEC, since many investors appear to be purchasing stock in the company based on Mr. Simmon’s promotional activities.

    • That is actually a common problem with investors: the company employees may have a clear understanding of what they can and can’t say, even extending to the liability that comes from Liking a consumer’s post on the company pages. Yet the people who endorse the product may not have the same understanding of what is and what is not permissible to say. That gap in understanding is actually one of the reasons I wanted to blog about Celsius and highlight the marriage of their claims with the exercise recommendation.

      • Russell Simmons is not just endorsing the product. As a 10%+ owner of the company’s shares, he is considered “an insider” according to SEC regulations. As such he has a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders of the company. We think that Celsius Holdings, Inc. could be opening itself up to a potential liability by allowing Mr. Simmon’s comments to go unchecked. That said, the SEC may be the least of their problems. The NAD, FDA and CSPI all have reason for concern regarding the message that is being sent to consumers about Celsius products. Former Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal lead a group of 27 State AG’s in obtaining a $650,000 settlement with Coca-Cola & Nestle over false claims regarding their joint-venture beverage called Enviga. Celsius is treading near very dangerous territory if they do not fully comply with the NAD’s requirement of including exercise as a prerequisite for the beverage’s calorie-burning benefits.

      • Agreed– the exercise must be mentioned as a part of the calorie burning effect of the drink. Hopefully the value of this detail (and the potential business risk of omitting it) will be made clear to all shareholders, and hopefully to consumers too, as some still incorrectly believe there is a magic bullet for weight loss.

  • Altitrade has been hyping Celsius for years, yet now reporting to regulators? What gives? Are you shorting the stock?

    • Yeah I have no idea what’s going on there. My only goal was to highlight the way Celsius had such prominent exercise recommendations on their label. With my posts I try to shed some light on how a food scientist looks at a label. I know nothing about and care nothing for the politics. Just the label, ingredients and taste – that’s all I can talk about with authority.

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