It’s only a matter of time until I find myself in the middle of an A&E; Intervention. I’ve got a debilitating addiction. My drug of choice? Caffeine.
Seriously though, after calculating my daily caffeine intake, I came up with a disturbing figure pushing 500 mg on a bad day. By no means am I proud of my habit of consuming this disgusting quantity of caffeine — in fact, an intake this high lands me in a category of individuals suffering from “caffeinism,” a potentially harmful condition associated with caffeine consumption over 400 mg a day.
So when I caught wind of what FOODweek is calling one of 2010’s top food trends, the “anti-energy” drink, I was both puzzled (who would want the anti-caffeine?!) and intrigued.
The jist behind this new line of products, including “Slow Cow,” “iChill” and “Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda,” is that they supposedly produce calming effects, helping tense consumers unwind and relax. But from what I’ve read so far (I couldn’t find a can to try myself), I’m unimpressed.
Promising “an acupuncture session in every can,” seems like a tall order. Is it even scientifically possible to capture marked relaxation in a drink?
They’re all blanketed under the title “anti-energy drinks,” but consumers should be aware that different brands have completely different ingredients, which — assuming these homeopathic remedies aren’t completely useless — could lead to pretty different physiological effects.
Most brands rely on natural substances like Kava, Chamomile or Valerian to produce relaxation. Without boring you with the specific details of each, these substances are claimed to produce relaxation, but they have not been extensively investigated or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
So my first complaint is that there’s little-to-no scientific support behind the therapeutic effects of anti-energy drinks (caffeine 1, anti-energy crap 0).
I’m also a little nervous about the idea of using “anti-energy drinks” as a sleep aid. Because they’re sold at stores like 7-Eleven, the public might not understand that the “natural ingredients” these drinks contain don’t mean they’re totally safe. Brands like “Drank” and “iChill” contain melatonin, a naturally occurring brain hormone that regulates our sleep cycles. Although it’s available in the United States over the counter, it’s available prescription-only in Europe and Canada and isn’t a substance that should be messed around with lightly or unknowingly.
Even if the drinks do have some moderate calming effect, who is going to spend $3 a pop on “relaxation in a can?” I understand shelling out for a Redbull. In fact, when its 10 p.m. the night before a final, I’d pay a lot more than $3 for a Redbull — but these “calming sodas” just sound like a hell of an expensive Sprite to me. (Score: 2 for team caffeine.)
Most students I spoke to held views similar to mine. “Leading the lifestyles we all live, we’re usually looking for more energy,” said College sophomore Ava Amarosa. “If I do have extra energy, I’d rather just relax than drink it away.”
But College sophomore Alex Olsman sees some of the potential benefits of a calming tonic. “If this drink works, the Penn campus could become a significantly easier environment to live in,” she joked.
The efficacy of these drinks is another matter entirely. Some experts say the active ingredients are at levels too low to have any real impact, but consumers swear they find these remedies effective.
If they do work, I still highly doubt that they’ll find a niche on college campuses. It seems to me that these drinks are just a marketing scheme to triple the price of a sugary drink. Mind you, I’m no Wharton buff.
If I’m anxious, I’ll pass on the “relaxation shot” and sip a chamomile tea — but then again, knowing me, I’d probably just reach for another Grande bold.
Sally Engelhart is a College sophomore from Toronto. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Scientifically Blonde appears on alternating Fridays.Comments powered by Disqus
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