Energy Drink Bans

In this three-part series, we’ll talk about whether energy drink bans are good or bad, what has been tried in the US, and the bans or restrictions in other countries.

PART ONE – Are Energy Drink Bans Good or Bad? Are They Effective?

In PART ONE of this three-part series, we’ll talk about energy drinks bans in general. Why do people want to ban energy drinks? How does an energy drink ban work? What drinks does it include and why?

It can be scary when your baby gets ahold of something they’re not supposed to have, something that could hurt them. One night I came home and noticed plastic confetti all around my dog’s bed. Gjalla doesn’t eat her victims, she tears them to shreds. That night Gjalla got ahold of my Cubs baseball hat. I was rooting for the Cubs that year even though my husband is from Wisconsin, which means what I did was worse.

I worry about my baby eating something like chocolate, something that could really hurt her. This kind of worry is why people are trying to ban energy drinks.

People who support energy drink bans want to keep their kids safe. This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve banned kids from buying things that could hurt them. In some states, people under 18 are not allowed to buy cough syrup, spray paint, or Sharpies. If you’re a kid caught buying a Sharpie, it goes on your permanent record.

But a ban on energy drinks – how would that work?

For starters, we need to know how much caffeine kids can have. Is it zero?

Nope. Zero to 100 mg caffeine.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids can have 0-100 mg caffeine per day. Technically, caffeine recommendations are per bodyweight but some kids weigh more than some adults and personally, I don’t believe your weight defines you as a person. So let’s just say if you’re under 18, you get 0-100 mg caffeine, from all sources.

So we’re not just talking about Red Bulls and Rockstars, it’s also Caramel Macchiatos and Mountain Dews. Oh sure, you want to ban Red Bull, but don’t you dare come after my Pumpkin Spice Latte.

A standard can of Red Bull has 80 mg caffeine. A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte has almost twice the caffeine — 150 mg. A Grande brewed coffee from Starbucks – over 300 mg caffeine – that’s more than 3 Red Bulls.

We can’t just ban energy drinks. Caffeine is the key ingredient doing all the work. The other so-called energy drink ingredients don’t come close to affecting your body the way caffeine does.

If we really want to protect kids from caffeine, we need to consider a ban on all sources of caffeine. Any ban on energy drinks needs to consider all sources, because energy drinks aren’t the only place kids are getting their caffeine.

The Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State found that less than 10% of the caffeine drinkers under 18 get their caffeine from energy drinks. Out of 10 kids, 8 of those get their caffeine from soda, 3 of those 10 get their caffeine from coffee, 5 of those 10 get their caffeine from tea, and 1 out of 10 get their caffeine from energy drinks.

I know this adds up to more than 10 kids, but these 10 kids are allowed to drink more than one thing.

If we really want to protect kids from caffeine, we can’t just focus on the 10%. We can help all of them.

PART TWO – Indiana’s 2019 Energy Drink Ban – What it means for energy drinks and future energy drink bans

In this part, we’ll talk about one specific example of energy drink bans. Indiana Senate Bill 369 makes it a misdemeanor to sell, give, or distribute an energy drink to a minor. What drinks does this ban include and *MORE IMPORTANTLY* what are the loopholes? How well will this ban keep kids safe from energy drinks and/or caffeine?

Senate Bill 369, introduced January 2019, would make it a class C misdemeanor to sell, give, or distribute an energy drink to someone younger than 18 years old. A class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of criminal offense, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

The important part: how this ban defines an “energy drink”.

This particular ban defines an energy drink as a soft drink that contains 80 mg or more of caffeine per 9 fluid ounces and either a B-vitamins, an herbal ingredient, or any methylxanthine other than caffeine (which is just a fancy way of saying other sources of caffeine like guarana, yerba mate).

What’s the problem?

For starters, Red Bull is 80 mg per 8.4 fluid ounces. If Red Bull were larger (such as the 12 oz cans Red Bull also comes in), then yes, technically it would be more than 80 mg per 9 fluid ounces. Nonetheless, because the language of this ban specified 9 fluid ounces instead of mg caffeine-per-ounce, there’s potential for confusion around if minors can buy energy drinks smaller than 9 oz.

A larger problem is that minors would not be able to buy Monster Energy, but they would be able to buy coffee-type energy drinks like Java Monster. The ban specifies a type of soft drink, but since Java Monster contains milk or milk products, it’s not technically a soft drink, which means the ban does not apply.

A third problem with the energy drink ban is that it doesn’t address coffee beverages at all. That’s a problem because Starbucks is one of the companies under the impression they need to come out with drinks with more and more and more caffeine. Starbucks Tripleshot Energy has more caffeine than the standard 8.4 oz Red Bull. It’s better to have multiple smaller containers than one container with the same amount of caffeine because of volumetrics.

Volumetrics principles indicate your brain will treat opening that second can of Red Bull as a “pause point”, giving you time to register you’ve had enough. On the contrary, Volumetrics indicates you will feel compelled to drink the whole Starbucks Doubleshot can.  Having to open a second container to get the same amount of caffeine as one big container means you will have time to stop before you have too much.

To Summarize

Even if a ban like the one proposed by Indiana passes, it won’t be effective and it certainly won’t prevent kids from buying things that have more caffeine than the maximum amount they can have in one day. Preventing someone from buying an energy drink isn’t really going to help. Instead, it would be much more effective to teach minors:

  • how to tell when you’ve had enough caffeine
  • how to read a label
  • how to figure out how much caffeine is in one drink versus another

These lessons are actions we can all take that would be much more effective than an energy drink ban.

PART THREE – Energy Drink Bans and Laws Around the World

Should energy drinks be banned? Let’s look at energy drink laws in the US and other countries. Watch the video below for a review of energy drink bans the US has tried, as well as energy drink bans and laws in the UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

US Energy Drink Bans:

  • 1:35 Kentucky’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:01 New York’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:19 Chicago’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:30 Los Angeles’ Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:58 Maryland’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 3:21 Indiana’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 3:45 General USA Energy Drink Ban Strategy

Bans, Laws, and Proposals Around the World:

  • 3:53 UK Energy Drink Ban #notforchildren
  • 4:10 WHAT ENERGY DRINK BANS HAVE WORKED – Canada’s Energy Drink Law
  • 4:45 Australia New Zealand Food Authority – Formulated Caffeinated Beverage Law
  • 5:26 Taiwan Energy Drink Law
  • 5:47 Brazil Energy Drink Law
  • 6:05 EU (+ UK?) Energy Drink Law for “High Caffeine Content” label

REFERENCES

  • Mitchell, Diane C., et al. “Beverage Caffeine Intakes in the U.S.” Food and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 63, 2014, pp. 136–142., doi:10.1016/j.fct.2013.10.042.
  • “Press Clips: Indiana Lawmakers Seek Ban on Energy Drink Sales to Minors.” BevNET.com, 7 Mar. 2019, www.bevnet.com/news/2019/press-clips-indiana-lawmakers-seek-ban-on-energy-drink-sales-to-minors.
  • Indiana General Assembly. “Indiana General Assembly.” Indiana General Assembly, 2019 Session, iga.in.gov/documents/5c4b9b92.
  • https://www.caffeineinformer.com/energy-drink-ban-the-beginning-of-the-end
  • Energy Drinks: An Assessment of Their Market Size, Consumer Demographics, Ingredient Profile, Functionality, and Regulations in the United States – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2010.00111.x
  • Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20492310

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Danielle Robertson Rath is a food scientist, consultant, speaker, and the founder of GreenEyedGuide.com. Her book “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks – How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” is widely considered the ultimate resource for caffeine drinkers everywhere. Danielle aka “GreenEyedGuide” started studying energy drinks while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and master’s degree in food science. She has been fascinated by caffeinated beverages and their ingredients ever since.

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Book GreenEyedGuide as a guest speaker – here

Get your copy of MY BOOK: “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” on Amazon and NOW ON AUDIBLE

 

 

Why Caffeine Sensitivity is like Quidditch

Is caffeine sensitivity like Quidditch ability? While reading Science Meets Food’s article, “Does Caffeine Work on You” it dawned on me how well someone handles their caffeine is like how well someone plays Quidditch.

infographic explaining Quidditch
SOURCE: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/21/sport/quidditch-mudbloods/index.html

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AGE

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Harry Potter is the youngest seeker in a century. Quidditch is dangerous for everyone but if you’re too young, it’s too hard to be successful. Same thing with caffeine. It’s dangerous for everyone (Bludger to the head = 1 gram of pure caffeine). But if you’re too young, it’s too hard for your body to metabolize the caffeine effectively, meaning more side effects (headache, nausea, jitters, irritability).

[We talked about caffeine and kids here on GreenEyedGuide]

harry potter trio young and old
SOURCE: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-14049090/harry-potter-stars-through-the-years

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GENES

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Hermione points out that Harry will be good at Quidditch because it’s in his blood. His dad was good at Quidditch, ergo, Harry has good Quidditch genes. At least 3 genes make you good at handling caffeine: one is for the liver enzyme that metabolizes caffeine; one gene is an on/off switch for that liver enzyme gene, and one is for the adenosine receptors caffeine snuggles into to keep you awake.

[if you find genetics interesting, there’s much more detail in this article on caffeine sensitivity by Caffeine Informer]

KEEPER pun harry potter with Quidditch rings
SOURCE: https://www.teepublic.com/sticker/1464469-im-a-keeper

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one more thing…

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Okay, but how come Ron sucks at Quidditch? Ginny, Fred, and George all seem to have good Quidditch genes, how come Ron is such a mental wreck when he plays? Because SENSITIVITY is different than TOLERANCE.

Tolerance is acquired over time, while caffeine sensitivity is more hard-wired. Ron’s tolerance for the attention and pressure that comes with playing Quidditch conflicts with his Quidditch ability. As Ron gets more tolerant of this attention and pressure, he’s only limited by his Quidditch ability. As we build a tolerance for caffeine, we’re then only limited by our caffeine sensitivity. But watch out for those over-caffeinated drinks and bludgers!

 

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Danielle Robertson Rath is a food scientist, consultant, speaker, and the founder of GreenEyedGuide.com. Her book “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks – How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” is widely considered the ultimate resource for caffeine drinkers everywhere. Danielle aka “GreenEyedGuide” started studying energy drinks while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and master’s degree in food science. She has been fascinated by caffeinated beverages and their ingredients ever since.

—————————————–
Book GreenEyedGuide as a guest speaker – here

Get your copy of MY BOOK: “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” on Amazon and NOW ON AUDIBLE

Chemicals and Food Safety in the 21st Century

I was honored to be asked to contribute to this discussion on “chemicals in our food”. This is the fourth in a series of collaboration between Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience and In Defense of Processed Food. This discussion is also published via Chemicals and Food Safety in the 21st Century by Danielle Robertson Rath

I’m at a party and I see a veggie platter, bags of chips, and a plate of raw hamburger meat. I’m confused, are people supposed to make burger patties themselves and barbecue them outside? This seems like an odd thing to do at someone else’s house. Other people at the party assure me this raw meat is actually steak tartare, perfectly fine to eat as-is, but I can’t bring myself to try it. This is a challenge for the heart, the body, and the brain. In my heart, there is too much fear this meat would make my body violently ill. In my brain, I don’t have enough information to accept this food is safe for me to eat.

Danielle Robertson Rath offers the fourth in a series of collaborations with Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience. Danielle is the go-to authority on caffeine and energy drinks so what better person to help us look at the safety of chemicals in our food?

Food poisoning is an awful experience, but what’s worse is when your food is making you sick and you can’t tell. Some people worry about chemicals in food making us sick. We have a right to be worried or, at least, to be skeptical.

In 1856, William Henry Perkin discovered the first synthetic organic dye. That discovery launched the practice of using dyes to color food. Nearly 100 years later, several children became ill from eating Halloween candy which was colored with FD&C Orange No.1, a dye that was, until that point, considered safe. As technology advances, we may discover some ingredients are less safe than we previously thought. We can reevaluate, just like the FDA did in 1950 –the year those children got sick from the orange dye, U.S. House Representative James Delaney began holding hearings on the safety of food additives. This prompted the US FDA to reevaluate all the listed color additives and remove the ones that caused serious adverse effects.

Science has come a long way since 1950. As technology advances, we have microscopes that are more powerful than ever. The difference is like admiring the leaves of a maple tree from the roof of a 10-story building versus being right there under that tree, holding its leaves in your hands. With this new sight, this new power, we face a dilemma. How do we know what to look for? How do we know what matters most? How do we reconcile the heart, body, and brain?

Holy Hill Wisconsin Rath Photo Shoot

Consider the ingredients in an energy drink. Red Bull is the world’s number one top-selling brand, so let’s use that. Red Bull’s full list of ingredients includes caffeine, B-vitamins, taurine, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium carbonate, and sweeteners glucose and sucrose (or artificial sweeteners Aspartame and Acesulfame Potassium in Red Bull Sugarfree). Red Bull is undoubtedly a processed food, but its ingredients list may have less “chemical-sounding” ingredients than one would expect. Nonetheless, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has a few of these Red Bull ingredients on their Chemical Cuisine List in the “AVOID” section. And yet, the worst chemical in Red Bull is…

caffeine.

RedBull SugarFree Ingredients List

There are plenty of people on board with the “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it” campaign, and you can find concerned citizens blogging about every one of the items on Panera’s “No No List”. These “clean label” initiatives certainly speak to the heart, but let’s give the brain more data to analyze the situation. Caffeine has killed people. Several people. Compared to caffeine, chemicals like acesulfame potassium look like a lazy college roommate who never stops playing video games.

While acesulfame potassium has been accused of giving cancer to lab rats, there are several people who have died or almost died because of caffeine:

  • A Nigerian man died after drinking 8 cans of an energy drink similar to Red Bull
  • A man from the UK died after eating a whole tin of caffeinated mints
  • A New Zealand woman’s death was linked to her habit of drinking 10 liters/day of Coca-Cola
  • A 19-year old man died after taking 25-30 No-Doz pills
  • A 17-year old woman nearly died after drinking 7 double espressos

Caffeine is more dangerous than most, if not all, the food additives that get a bad reputation in today’s media. Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance on the planet. At least 85% of the population consumes caffeine on a daily basis, and it’s not just in drinks anymore. It’s in gum, candy, mints, bread, desserts, and other snack foods.

While some people metabolize caffeine quickly and feel none of its effects, everyone else can feel it affecting their body and mind. Caffeine’s positive effects include alertness, endurance, and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeine’s negative effects include insomnia, jitters, addiction, headaches, anxiety, chest pain, acid reflux, gastrointestinal upset, and agitation. And these are just the effects we know about for sure.

There are over 100 different experimental studies on the effect of caffeine on heart rate, and still, we have no decisive answer. Most of those studies suggest caffeine has no effect, but other studies can’t agree on what the effect is. We can’t tell if caffeine makes the heart rate go up or down. It would be a win/win if we could say, “Either caffeine does nothing or it helps protect the heart,” but the research conflicts itself here.

Another aspect that makes caffeine more dangerous than other chemicals in our food is how caffeine affects different people. People with hypertension (high blood pressure) and people at risk for hypertension are advised against consuming caffeine because the blood pressure increases these people experience are stronger and longer than the increases experienced by everyone else.

Caffeine is at its worst when it’s combined with alcohol. Bartenders know the only thing worse than a drunk is a wide-awake drunk. At least when you’re drunk and passed out, you stop drinking, you stop harassing people, and you stop sharing your deepest thoughts with total strangers. When people drink caffeine and alcohol together, they are more likely to drink too much, more likely to take more risks like drive or ride with a drunk driver, and more likely to get injured.

Even without caffeine, alcohol is more dangerous for your health than scary chemicals like artificial colors or sweeteners, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), and azodicarbonamide (the “yoga mat” chemical in bread). Even at concentrations below the legal driving limit, alcohol impairs reflexes, changes brain function, and impacts behavior.

Heavy or binge drinking is associated with increased risk of liver cirrhosis, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, impaired immune function and increases the incidence of chronic inflammatory diseases like osteoporosis, sarcopenia, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Chronic alcohol abuse leads to increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections.

Your brain might be saying, “Of course caffeine and alcohol are dangerous, but that’s only when you have too much.” There’s the rub. Caffeine and alcohol are some of the worst chemicals in our diet. We know the risks, but we drink it anyway because we know there is an amount that is safe to consume. To paraphrase Paracelsus, the difference between a poison and a cure is the dosage. This lesson is ingrained in our brains for alcohol and caffeine. And yet, we forget this lesson when we become afraid of other food chemicals. We don’t stop and ask the same questions we would if it were alcohol or caffeine: “How much can I have and still be okay?”

If you want to consume a diet free of artificial sweeteners and colors, free of ingredients with long names you don’t recognize, that is your right. However, don’t forget to give your brain some time to weigh in – is your heart being manipulated before your brain has a chance to process the data? As technology advances, we will have more power than we can imagine. We might be able to detect arsenic in juice at microscopic levels that weren’t remotely possible 10 years ago. We might be able to discover or synthesize new ingredients that change the food industry just like William Henry Perkin’s discovery of food dyes. And just like the FDA did in 1950, we will need to reevaluate the safety of the old, the current, and the new. We would benefit from treating our discoveries like caffeine and alcohol, remembering that the quantity and context make all the difference.

Next week [on In Defense of Processed Food]: The elusive connection between health, safety, and food.

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Danielle Robertson Rath is a food scientist, consultant, speaker, and the founder of GreenEyedGuide.com. Her book “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks – How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” is widely considered the ultimate resource for caffeine drinkers everywhere. Danielle aka “GreenEyedGuide” started studying energy drinks while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and master’s degree in food science. She has been fascinated by caffeinated beverages and their ingredients ever since.

—————————————–
Book GreenEyedGuide as a guest speaker – here

Get your copy of MY BOOK: “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” on Amazon and NOW ON AUDIBLE

How Energy Drinks Affect Children and Young People: Research Recap

Energy drinks do not belong in the diet of a five-year-old. You already knew that. But do you know what happens when children do have energy drinks? Thanks to research by Durham University in the UK, we now have a good idea how many kids and teens in different countries drink energy drinks and how those drinks affect their health.

›We’re recapping the findings of this paper: “Consumption of energy drinks by children and young people: a rapid review examining evidence of physical effects and consumer attitude

*Note – the research paper by Durham University uses the expression “children and young people” to refer to those under 18. At the age of 33, I still consider myself a “young person”, so I’m going to use the expression “kids and teens” instead. Read more

10 Energy Drinks That Won’t Hurt Blood Vessels

A study presented at the November 2018 American Heart Association conference claimed, “Just one energy drink may hurt blood vessel function.” It’s been a few months since the last “energy drinks are killing people” freak out, so I suppose we were due.  Instead of pointing out all the limitations in the study (because this Healthline article beat me to it and did a great job) I’m going to skip the science for today and just talk about the 10 energy drinks that will not hurt your blood vessels.

Read more