This is very much a world of its own because in many countries these drinks are not regulated the way other foods are. Either that, or they’re simply marketed in such a way that you may not be getting quite what you expect.
This was recently brought to my attention in an email from Jackie from the UK. Her daughter had sports induced migraine and was prescribed, with great success, something known as guarana. Guarana is in quite a few drinks, especially energy drinks, sold around the world.
Take, for example, GURU. On their website they write this about Guarana: Today, the plant is known and used worldwide as a general tonic for the body and as a source of energy. Its active component, guaranine, is proven to have tonifying and astringent properties. It acts on the central nervous system to prevent fatigue and break down lactic acid from muscle stress. It is also used in Europe and the United States to relieve headaches and rheumatic conditions.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But what that summary doesn’t mention is the caffeine content. The drink contains 125.5mg of caffeine – equal to almost 3.5 cans of Coke! And where does the caffeine come from? The humble guarana seed, which contains about 3x as much caffeine as the coffee bean.
On amazon.com, the entry for GURU says: World’s First 100% Natural Energy Drink … Helps enhance physical stamina and increase alertness and vitality … Made with fruit juices and an active botanical complex of guarana, panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba and echinacea … no preservatives – no taurine – no artificial ingredients … All botanicals included in GURU are standardized, which guarantees their potency with scientific accuracy.
Without even getting into the caffeine for headache debate, the important thing here is to be aware what you’re drinking. For all the hype about all-natural and botanical and so on, what you’re getting may or may not be healthy. Yes, guarana may have health benefits, just like the coffee bean, but that doesn’t mean a lot of it is automatically good for you.
GURU is by far not the only one – many sports drinks contain caffeine, though not always that much (sometimes more). Newest on the menu are the Starbucks energy drinks, also containing guarana. BAWLS EXXTRA is also a newer drink on the market with guarana.
And that’s just a reference to caffeine – what about sugar, for example? (In drinks like GURU, mix-1 and FRS it’s packed up in cane juice, syrup or sugar, as well as other juices). Then there are special "herbal" ingredients – also usually unregulated.
Should you stay away from these products? Well, that’s up to you. But I do suggest that you know as much as possible what you’re drinking, and be cautious. Every all-natural botanical organic substance is not necessarily going to help your body over the long term.
Article on guarana sales in Canada – Packing drinks with a punch