Sep 5, 2012

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy


My seven year old son Eric wants everything he sees on TV. Dad we should get that, it will help mom out. Dad we should get this it would be really fun. Maybe Im just getting old and cranky, but unlike Eric, I assume all TV ads are lying to me. For example, there is Vince. You know, Vince the ShamWow guy, Vince the Slap Chop guy aka Vince Offer aka Vince Shlomi. Well Vince has a new product out called the Schticky. Apparently the Schticky is a reusable lint roller that will also pick up cereal, cob webs and pennies. The best part of the infomercial is that Vince does poke fun at himself for a previous arrest and mug shot. However, does anyone actually think the Schticky will work? I mean it might, I have no proof otherwise, but I imagine a cheap plastic roller that disintegrates into dust on its third use. I mean its on TV. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is thats the mantra I apply to every commercial.


What do you think about the 5-Hour Energy Cowboy? Despite his plastic sheriffs badge, he is older, so he does seem more credible than Vince, but the 5-Hour Energy people claim their product will give you the energy of 4-5 cups of coffee with no crash. Does that seem too good to be true? Apparently, some people in the Big Apple think it might be.


New Yorkattorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, is reportedly looking into whether energy drink makers are lying to their customers about their product ingredients and health risks. Schneiderman is looking at documents from energy drink makers Monster Beverage, PepsiCo and Living Essentials. Monster produces Monster Energy Drinks, PepsiCo makes AMP drinks and Living Essentials makes 5 Hour Energy. Apparently this is part of an investigation into how accurately the companies report the amount of caffeine in their drinks. For example, the companies may add black tea extract to their beverages, but not list this caffeine containing ingredient on their labels. Or they could list an ingredient like guarana on their label, but the average consumer would have no idea that was choked full of caffeine. Energy drinks have become a multi-million dollar industry. In 2011 US sales increased 16% to $8.9 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. That is over 10% of the whole carbonated-soft-drink category. Arguably one of the reasons energy drinks are such a profitable and growing segment of the carbonated-soft-drink category is due to a loop-hole. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the caffeine content in soft drinks like colas, because they are categorized as food. However, there is no such regulation of energy drinks. The makers of these beverages have cleverly got them classified as dietary supplements which have far fewer regulations than food.


What are energy drinks? Energy drinks are beverages that contain caffeine, herbal supplements, and sugar. They are marketed to improve energy, cause weight loss, improve stamina and athletic performance, and focus concentration. Half of the energy drink market consists of children, adolescents, and young adults. Although healthy people can tolerate caffeine in moderation, heavy caffeine consumption, such as heavy use of energy drinks, has been associated with serious consequences such as seizures, mania, stroke, and even reports of sudden death.
What is the problem with caffeine? Even us pharmacists often forget that caffeine is the most popular psychoactive drug in the western world. It has been estimated that 80% of us consume caffeine. Caffeine is an interesting drug. To begin with caffeine has a half life of six hours. It takes about 5 half lives for a drug to leave the body. That means it takes 30 hours (almost 2 days) for that cup of coffee to leave your body completely. If you never take a two day break from coffee, that means you always have caffeine in your system.

HealthCanadasays :

  • The general population of healthy adults is not at risk for potential adverse effects from caffeine if they limit their caffeine intake to 400mg per day(that is about 3 8 oz cups of coffee per day);

  • People who get an adequate daily amount of calcium have greater protection against the possible adverse effects of caffeine on bone health.

  • Compared to the general adult population, children are at increased risk for possible behavioral effects from caffeine; and

  • Women of childbearing age are at increased risk of possible reproductive effects if they consume caffeine.

On February 14, 2011 in theAmericanAcademyof Pediatrics Journal there was a paper on the health effect of energy drinks on young people. Seifert et. al estimated energy drinks are consumed by 30% to 50% of adolescents and young adults. These energy drinks often contain high and unregulated amounts of caffeine. These drinks may cause serious adverse effects. The side effects can be especially dangerous in children, adolescents, and young adults with seizures, diabetes, heart problems, mood disorders or those who take certain medications. Of the 5448UScaffeine overdoses reported in 2007, 46% occurred in those younger than 19 years old. The final recommendation of the Seifert trial was that since there was little or no benefit to the energy drinks in children, their caffeine content is unregulated, they have herbs in them that may not be safe in children and each can may have the caffeine equivalent of 4 cups of coffee in them, these are not safe products for children to be taking.


Im glad the New York State government is looking into how honest the energy drink makers are being. It will be interesting to see how much caffeine they are shoving through their loop hole. And if you buy something that looks too good to be true, you just might get a little schticky.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.


The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

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