Stupid Intake

Sugar Alert – Stupid Intake

Dean L. Jones, C.P.M.

Marketed as an energy drink, the colorful fruity looking can called Four Loko has built a considerable reputation being the ultimate caffeinated alcohol combination.  The heavy caffeine and guarana gives it the kick to place it in the energy category.  Sadly, quite a growing number of young people are drinking this concoction that produces blackouts and absolute inebriation.

The number four in the product’s name references caffeine, taurine, guarana and wormwood.  The most popular purchase is the large 23.5-ounce aluminum can with a walloping 660 calories.  There is zero fat, no fiber or protein and contains 60-grams of sugar.  The making of it for European countries contains absinthe, unlike the United States version is a malt liquor, rather a spirit-based drink.  The ingredient guarana comes from nature with large leaves and clusters of flowers, generally gets attention for its fruit, which is about the size of a coffee bean.  As a dietary supplement, guarana is an energy booster, containing about twice the caffeine found in coffee beans.  Consequently, this drink will over pump the heart for a sustained period.

This is the kind of product that if you are waiting for the federal government to intervene with some sort of ban or caution label requirements [generally recognized as safe], you had better not hold your breath.  The revenue from sales is enormously high and that means money for effective lobbying is comprehensive.  The federal government has addressed the manufacturers of energy drinks to provide proof that adding alcohol intentionally does not pose dangerous health concerns.  The federal government’s level of work here demonstrates how ludicrous their foods and beverages oversight operates; since the reintroduction of legal alcohol after prohibition clearly stated that alcohol has health dangers and intoxicating effects from high alcohol content.

Local stores trick consumers by placing the product amongst the other brightly-designed cans of energy drink where it’s easily mistaken for iced tea or fruit punch, which is referred to the alcopop section.  It has more alcohol than four beers, but is not part of this section of the store as consumers become hoodwinked yet once again.  Even though Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, manufacturers of similar drinks Tilt and Sparks, are reformulating their drinks, there is no word about changing the colorful packaging to look like a soft drink.

The ingredient taurine is interesting because its application helps to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and has been implicated in a wide array of physiological phenomena including the possible prevention of obesity and epileptic seizures.  It also acts as an antioxidant and protects against toxicity of various substances such as lead and cadmium.  Taurine has also been shown to help people with congestive heart failure by increasing the force and effectiveness of heart-muscle contractions.

In the cell, taurine keeps potassium and magnesium inside the cell while keeping excessive sodium out. In this sense, it works like a diuretic. Because it aids the movement of potassium, sodium, and calcium in and out of the cell, taurine has been used as a supplementation for epileptics as well as for people who have uncontrollable facial twitches and skin aging.

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Dean L. Jones is a marketing strategist with the Southland Partnership Corporation, a public benefit organization.  He has published a series of consumer alert articles based on his view of barefaced mismanagement of food/beverage products. n