TIME Research

You Can Now Inhale Caffeine Instead of Drink It

Eagle Energy Vapor
Matt Lang—Eagle Energy Eagle Energy Vapor

A new e-cigarette-like inhaler gives users a boost of caffeine. But how safe is it?

Forget coffee and energy drinks—now you can inhale your caffeine.

Perhaps taking a cue from increasingly popular e-cigarettes, marketers have now created a way for people to vape their energy. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that products like Eagle Energy Vapor allow people to forgo their morning cup o’ joe and puff their caffeine instead. Each inhaler boasts a pretty small amount of caffeine, which the company says comes from natural sources like guarana, taurine, and ginseng (stimulants that are also common among energy drinks). As the Times describes it: “Think of it as a Red Bull for the lungs.”

No surprise, some experts in the medical community find this trend problematic. America is, evidently, a nation in need of a pick-me-up, at least if you consider the boom of products that contain caffeine, like energy drinks, caffeinated water and snacks and powdered caffeine. As I recently reported in TIME, the U.S. energy drink business is estimated to grow more than 11% by 2019 to an estimated $26.6 billion in yearly revenue.

So what’s the big deal?

From a health perspective, caffeine is tricky business. Many experts are concerned about some caffeinated products—particularly energy drinks. One of the primary arguments is that unlike coffee or soda, many energy drinks (and the new caffeine inhalers) contain multiple stimulants aside from synthetic caffeine. How these ingredients interact in combination is largely unknown. In addition, many doctors and health watchdogs are dissatisfied with the way these products are regulated. Manufacturers can choose to market their products as dietary supplements or as beverages, neither of which require pre-market safety approval by the FDA or any other public-health agency. According to the Times, the FDA has not reviewed the new caffeine inhalers for safety, either.

The effects of inhaling caffeine are also a gray area. “The way our bodies handle caffeine that is inhaled can be very different from when caffeine is in our food or drink,” says Mary M. Sweeney, a postdoctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Even if an inhaled product delivers the same dose of caffeine as a cup of coffee, it may have different subjective effects for people because the time-course might be different.”

In 2013, the FDA announced that amid a growing trend of manufacturers adding caffeine to food products (like gum, for example), the agency was launching a safety investigation into the matter. It’s now 2015, and that information is still not available to consumers. The FDA says it is continuing to look into it.

The Eagle Energy Vapor inhaler’s aesthetic similarities to e-cigarettes are undeniable. And while the jury is still out in regards to the overall danger of e-cigarettes, recent federal data has shown use tripled among middle and high school students in just one year. Could caffeine inhalers attract young people in a similar way? Are they as dangerous as medical experts believe other caffeinated products are? We don’t know. But what Americans should know is that just because a new caffeinated product is on the market doesn’t mean that it’s undergone a rigorous safety testing or approval process, or that doctors think it’s safe.

“What troubles me most about this particular product is that the flavor composition appears to be similar to candy; thus, it could be attractive to children and adolescents,” says Steven Meredith, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. “The long-term effects of caffeine on the developing brains of children and adolescents are still relatively unknown. But, caffeine consumption interferes with sleep, and sleep is necessary for learning. Thus, long-term cognitive effects of excessive caffeine consumption at a young age is certainly plausible.”

While the FDA says it’s continuing to investigate caffeinated products, it may be in your best interest to stick to stimulants that most medical experts can get behind: coffee.

TIME beverages

These Are the Top 5 Energy Drinks

Cans of Monster Beverage Corp. energy drink are displayed for sale at a convenience store in Redondo Beach, California, U.S.
Bloomberg—Getty Images

Rankings with buzz

Monster Beverage’s stock tanked on Monday before quickly turning itself around and ending the day up by more than 4% after the company released quarterly numbers that looked pretty terrible. While the energy-drink maker’s business slipped a bit, most of the drop in profits had to do with the company paying off its former distributors as it moves distribution to Coca-Cola, which has taken a big stake in Monster in order to get a toehold on the market as sales of traditional soft drinks continue to fall. Investors in the end seemed to realize that nothing actually looked any bleaker after all.

Monster reported $4.4 million in profits, compared with $95.2 million a year ago. Revenue was up, but only slightly, and a bit less than most analysts were expecting.

Despite all the short-term pain, Monster is banking on long-terms gains thanks to its relationship with Coca-Cola, which will soon own 17% of the company. That deal, announced last August, is expected to close in the current quarter. Monster is a close No. 2 to Red Bull in the market for energy drinks. While there are many small players in the market (including ones owned by big companies), Red Bull and Monster dominate, and it looks like a Battle Royale is shaping up between the two.

Market-share-wise, here’s how things break down according to the most recent figures available (2014) from Euromonitor International:

Red Bull – The original, launched in 1997, Red Bull enjoys about 43% of the market.

Monster – A 39% market share. The company clearly hopes to surpass Red Bull with Coke’s help, though Monster executives noted in their earnings call last week that both Red Bull and Rockstar have gained share recently.

Rockstar – A strong-but-distant No. 3, the independent Rockstar has about 10% of the market.

NOS – This Coke-owned brand is named after nitrous oxide, and is often sold in containers meant to look like nitrous tanks. Its market share is about 3%.

Amp – Owned by PepsiCo, Amp also has about 3% of the market.

 

TIME Research

Energy Drinks May Drive Kids to Distraction

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Getty Images

A new study finds a link between consumption of energy drinks and hyperactivity and inattention

Middle schoolers who consume sweetened energy drinks are 66% more at risk for hyperactivity than other kids, according to a new study.

To assess the effect of a variety of beverages on middle schoolers, Yale School of Public Health researchers surveyed 1,649 students in 5th, 7th, and 8th grade about their beverage consumption and assessed their levels of hyperactivity and inattention.

“Despite considering numerous types of beverages in our analyses (eg, soda, fruit drinks), only energy drinks were associated with greater risk of hyperactivity/inattention,” the authors write in the study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

Unlike soda and juice, energy drinks often contain ingredients like guarana and taurine. The researchers say it could be the effect of these ingredients mixed with caffeine that causes problems.

“Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, sugar and other ingredients that work synergistically with caffeine. Caffeine may be contributing to this association because the caffeine content of energy drinks is far greater on average than that of soda,” the authors write.

It’s important to note that the researchers could not determine that the energy drinks caused the hyperactivity and inattentiveness in the kids. The American Beverage Association has guidelines for energy drink companies that recommend against marketing their products to children and not selling in K-12 schools.

However, a January report from U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) shows most energy drink companies will market to young people under age 18, which the senators object to arguing there are safety concerns for teenagers as well.

“Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks,” study author Jeannette Ickovics, director of CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) at the Yale School of Public Health said in a statement.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why You Might Not Want To Mix Alcohol and Energy Drinks

370699 02: A shot of vodka is poured into a "Red Bull" energy drink in this 1999 photo taken in Los Angeles, CA. The mixed drink keep club goers buzzed but wide awake while partying. They''re calling this beverage "ecstasy in a can." (Photo by Evan Kafka/Liaison)
Evan Kafka—Getty Images

Combining the two seems to make you want to drink more and mask signs of inebriation

For years, research has suggested that mixing alcohol and heavily-caffeinated energy drinks could have negative health effects. Combining the two seems to make you want to drink more and mask signs of inebriation.

The combo’s potential negative consequences aren’t just a personal risk, but a public health one, suggests a new paper in the journal Advances in Nutrition.

“When people mix energy drinks with alcohol, people drink more than they would if they had just consumed alcohol, which is associated with a cascade of problems,” says paper author Cecile Marczinski, associate professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University.

The increased likelihood of engaging in risky behavior, particularly drunk driving, is chief among the public health concerns, Marczinski says. The caffeine rush in energy drinks makes a drinker look and feel more balanced and coordinated than their drinking would suggest, leading some drinkers to believe they’re not actually drunk. In one study Marczinski cited, people who combined energy drinks and alcohol were four times more likely to think they could drive home than their counterparts who drank alcohol alone. The effects of the energy drink may also make it less obvious to police officers that a driver is drunk, making the officer less likely to breathalyze.

Other public health concerns that stem from mixing alcohol and energy drinks include adolescent brain damage, more emergency department visits and increased hospitalizations, the review says.

Even though the widespread popularization of energy drinks is a relatively new phenomenon, some jurisdictions have worked to address the growing public health issues, Marczinski says. Some parts of Australia ban the sale of energy drinks in bars after midnight. “You can have really dramatic solutions or minor steps in the right direction,” she says.

University of Connecticut Health Center researcher Steven Meredith, who has studied the health effects of the mixed drinks but was not involved in the review, says that more research is needed to fully understand how energy drinks and alcohol interact with the body together. Still, taking a more active approach to public policy makes sense, he says, given the reported risks.

“If you’re in public policy and health care, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Most Energy Drink Companies Market to Minors, Report Finds

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Getty Images

Senators say energy drink companies should not market to youth under age 18

There’s no denying the energy drink industry is booming, with 60% growth between 2008 to 2012. But a new report from three U.S. senators raises questions about one particular segment of the market that’s growing: minors.

The report, titled “Buzz Kill,” is part of senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)’s ongoing investigation into the energy drink industry. Their primary concerns are lack of regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the drinks, which may pose health problems for kids, adolescents and teens.

In 2013, the three senators sent letters to 16 energy drink companies asking about their willingness to report any adverse reactions to their products as well as to voluntarily submit to restrictions against marketing to young people. In “Buzz Kills,” the senators report that just four of the 12 companies say they avoid marketing their energy drink to people under 18.

“Unfortunately, as long as early development of brand loyalty is seen as a competitive market advantage, energy drink companies will continue with the practice of marketing to teens in the absence of regulation that prohibits it,” the report reads.

The American Beverage Association has long offered guidance to the beverage industry on labeling, advisory statements, and marketing to children, recommending voluntary statements that the drinks are not recommended for kids and that the products not be promoted at K-12 schools. While several energy drink companies, including Red Bull and Monster, have made a commitment not to market to kids 12 and under, some critics say people over age 12 are still at risk for possible health consequences, like neurodevelopment interactions and heart-related effects.

In response to the report, American Beverage Association spokesperson Christopher Gindlesperger said this, in a statement:

“Energy drinks have been enjoyed safely by millions of people around the world for more than 25 years, and in the U.S. for more than 15 years. Energy drinks, their ingredients and labeling are regulated by the FDA, and, like most consumer products, their advertising is subject to oversight from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

This report ignores crucial data about energy drinks and caffeine consumption in the U.S. Based on the most recent government data reported in the journal Pediatrics, children under 12 have virtually no caffeine consumption from energy drinks. This study’s findings are consistent with an analysis commissioned by FDA and updated in 2012, as well as a published ILSI survey of more than 37,000 people which shows that caffeine consumption in the U.S. has remained stable during the most recent period analyzed, while coffee remains the primary source of caffeine in most age groups.

Leading energy drink manufacturers voluntarily go far beyond all federal requirements when it comes to labeling and education. In fact, ABA member companies voluntarily display total caffeine content – from all sources – on their packages along with advisory statements indicating that the product is not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine. They also have voluntarily pledged not to market these products to children or sell them in K-12 schools.

Based on current regulations, the companies are not breaking rules. An FDA regulatory category for “energy drinks” does not exist, and companies can file their energy drinks to the FDA as either foods or dietary supplements. Some companies do not need to label the amount of caffeine in their products, and others are not required to report adverse health events linked to their products. Given the regulatory confusion, the report authors say the FDA and manufacturers need to make some changes for better transparency.

The senators call on the FDA to set a recommendation for the amount of caffeine a child or adolescent can safely consume each day. They also argue that all energy drink companies should commit to providing adverse-event reports to the FDA, and companies should stop promoting their beverages as “sports drinks.”

You can read the full report, here.

As the energy drink market continues to grow, and research continues to develop, the debate over whether energy drinks should be allowed in the hands of teens will continue.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Energy Drinks Are Hurting Young Kids

TO GO WITH AFP STORY-LIFESTYLE-US-DRINK-
AFP/Getty Images Cans of energy drinks are displayed in a store in San Diego on November 10, 2006.

Poison centers are fielding calls about adverse health events from energy drinks for kids as young as six

Over 40% of calls to U.S. poison centers concerning energy drinks are for kids under age 6, some of whom reported experiencing symptoms like serious cardiac and neurological problems.

In a new study that examined the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System, looking at reports from Oct. 2010 to Sept. 2013, researchers found that of the 5,156 reported cases of energy drink exposure, 40% where unintentional exposures by kids. Symptoms related to the heart, like abnormal rhythms, were noted in 57% of the reported cases. Neurological issues were reported in 55% of the cases.

American Heart Association

Prior data has shown that young kids are passing up caffeinated beverages like soda, but are instead consuming more energy drinks and coffee. The FDA is currently investigating the risks of added caffeine in products consumed by young people.

The trouble with energy drinks is that they are not always regulated the same way as other beverages. For instance, some are considered dietary supplements, and don’t need FDA safety approval. The FDA considers caffeine to be safe, but some energy drinks can contain up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per can, as compared to 100-150 mg in a coffee, the study’s authors say.

Researchers are unsure what part of energy drinks can cause adverse health problems. It’s possible other ingredients besides caffeine can result in medical issues.

The American Beverage Association responded to the study, which is not yet published but was presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions:

“This abstract has not been published and therefore the authors’ full methodology and analysis is not available for review. In the past, various experts have raised concerns regarding misinterpretation and inherent limitations of data from National Poison Data System when it comes to Energy Drinks. Based on the most recent government data reported in the journal Pediatrics, children under 12 have virtually no caffeine consumption from energy drinks.

Even so, leading energy drink makers voluntarily place advisory statements on energy drink packaging stating that energy drinks are not recommended for children. They also have voluntarily pledged not to market these products to children or sell them in K-12 schools. These guidelines and more are noted in the ABA Guidance on the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why Health Officials Are Concerned About Energy Drinks

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WendellandCarolyn—Getty Images

New report advocates for more regulation

The energy drink market is booming, but that’s not necessarily a good thing when it comes to public health, says the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe.

In a new report in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, João Breda, who works in the division of noncommunicable diseases at WHO Europe, and his colleagues reviewed data on the health risks of energy drinks and the current policies that regulate them. They concluded that health concerns from the scientific and medical community are valid, and that consuming high levels of caffeine very quickly can cause negative health effects or “caffeine intoxication.” Those effects can include nausea, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Some deaths have even been linked to energy drink consumption, like that of a 16-year-old girl who went into cardiac arrest after drinking the beverages, but none have been definitively proven.

MORE: What’s In Your Energy Drink?

WHO is especially concerned about what happens when people mix energy drinks and alcohol. “The consumption of high amounts of caffeine contained within energy drinks reduces drowsiness without diminishing the effects of alcohol resulting in a state of ‘wide-awake- drunkenness,’ keeping the individual awake longer with the opportunity to continue drinking,” the authors write in the journal. (A small study in July suggests the same thing: people who drank spirits mixed with energy drinks had a greater desire to keep drinking than those sipping regular mixed drinks.)

Sleep-starved college students aren’t the only ones guzzling energy drinks. The WHO report cites estimates that energy drinks make up 43% of caffeine exposure in children.

In Europe, some countries are taking energy drink regulation very seriously: Sweden has banned the sale of energy drinks to kids. In the U.S., energy drink regulation is incredibly weak, and depending on how an energy drink makes it to market, it may not even have to disclose how much caffeine it contains. The WHO report recommends that policymakers adopt more measures to get a tighter grip on the industry, including establishing an upper limit for caffeine content, enforcing labeling and marketing standards, regulating the sale of energy drinks to kids, training healthcare workers about the risks and even screening patients with a history of diet issues and substance abuse for dangerous energy drink consumption. They also call for more research on how energy drinks affect us. “From a review of the literature, it would appear that concerns in the scientific community and among the public regarding the potential adverse health effects of the increased consumption of energy drinks are broadly valid,” they write—a finding that warrants further research, policy and caution.

MONEY

You Could Get $10 from Red Bull

Red Bull is distributing cash to customers under the terms of a lawsuit settlement. But there's only $13 million to go around.

TIME Energy drinks

Lithuania Is Banning Red Bull for Some Reason

U.S. Forces Prepare To Withdraw From Iraq After 8-Year Presence
Joe Raedle—Getty Images U.S. Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) holds up a can of Monster energy drink as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee July 31, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Bummer, brah

Lithuania’s parliament voted on Thursday to ban the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to minors, as companies like Red Bull and Monster face increased scrutiny in the European Union.

The small Baltic country’s legislation prohibits drinks that contain 150 milligrams of caffeine per liter to be sold to minors, reports the Wall Street Journal. Monster Energy and Red Bull have 338 milligrams and 319 milligrams of caffeine per liter, respectively, according to caffeineinformer.com.

Lithuania’s law could have a large impact on industry sales: a European Food Safety Authority study found in 2013 that adolescents are far more likely to consume energy drinks than adults, with 68 percent of Europeans aged 10 to 18 years old drinking them.

Other countries are cracking down, too: the U.K. will require companies to label drinks with more than 150 milligrams per liter of caffeine, and German regulators have called for tighter energy drink controls.

And in the United States, legislators in Chicago, Maryland sought to introduce restricting sales to minors, but both efforts failed to take hold. Red Bull and Monster were questioned in Senate hearing last summer over allegations they were targeting youth.

The energy drink market has boomed over the past 10 years, with global energy-drink sales more than quadrupled to $27.54 billion in 2013, according to research firm Euromonitor. Red Bull, based in Austria, has a 31.5 percent global share, and California’s Monster has 14 percent.

[WSJ]

 

TIME

The One Good Thing About Teens And Sports Drinks

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Tony Cordoza—Getty Images

Researchers confirm a strong connection between sports and energy drinks and smoking, video game playing and sugary soda consumption. But the beverages were also linked to more physical activity among teens.

Considering what we know about kids and sports drinks — briefly, that according to leading health groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children should not be drinking them — the small silver lining, according to a recent study, is that kids who drink them tend to exercise more than those who don’t. But they were also more likely to do things that harm their health, too.

Nicole Larson and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health asked nearly 3000 students in grades 6 through 12 an exhaustive series of 235 questions and concluded that nearly 40% drank a sports drink at least once a week. Both boys and girls consuming sports drinks regularly were more likely to smoke and to play video games, the researchers found. They were also more likely to drink sugary soda and juice. The fact that sports and energy drink consumption are correlated with other risky behaviors, such as smoking, isn’t a surprise (though, to be clear, the researchers do not suggest a cause-effect relationship between the two).

As for the finding that the big sports-drink fans were also more likely to exercise and participate in organized sports? The researchers say that could be due to the fact that sports drink makers often partner with athletic groups to target adolescent athletes specifically.

Consumption of sports and energy drinks has tripled among teens in the past decade and about 12% of U.S. teens still drink a sports or energy drink on any given day. Taken together, the body of research suggests that athletes need to be better educated about the healthiest way to hydrate: drinking water.

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