Food & Alcohol

Published on September 3rd, 2013

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Can an Energy Drink Claim to be Healthy?

Vemma Nutrition Company, a national supplement company popular with young adults, touts its efforts to empower – and enrich – them through its line of beverage products.

But one of the chief products Vemma wants young adults to sell in order to gain financial freedom contains an ingredient that consumer advocates say can be harmful: caffeine.

The product line is Verve energy drinks, which has fast become the company’s top selling items. The Verve line is raking in more than $100 million a year, according to Vemma CEO Benson K. Boreyko.

Boreyko describes the Verve products as “freakin’ awesome” uniquely healthy energy boosters that contain, among other ingredients, a mixture of vitamins and mangosteen, which is a tropical fruit. Yet Verve products have a range of caffeine levels that rival some of the most popular – and highly scrutinized – energy brands on the market. An 8.3-ounce container of Verve Bold contains 120 mg of caffeine, which is more than an 8-ounce container of Red Bull or Monster Energy.

Growing number of experts voice health concerns

What Boreyko calls healthy, others call potentially dangerous.

The FDA reports that more than a dozen deaths have been associated with the consumption of energy drink products. The agency is currently investigating the health impacts of caffeine levels in an increasing number of food and beverages. Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said:

(W)e believe that some in the food industry are on a dubious, potentially dangerous path. If necessary, and if the science indicates that it is warranted, we are prepared to go through the regulatory process to establish clear boundaries and conditions on caffeine use. We are also prepared to consider enforcement action against individual products as appropriate.

In March, a group of 18 doctors wrote the FDA urging the agency to restrict the amount of caffeine in energy drinks and raised concerns about the marketing of the products to young adults, as well as kids and adolescents. The doctors wrote:

Given the evidence summarized below, we conclude that there is neither sufficient evidence of safety nor a consensus of scientific opinion to conclude that the high levels of added caffeine in energy drinks are safe under the conditions of their intended use, as required by the FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) standards for food additives. To the contrary, the best available scientific evidence demonstrates a robust correlation between the caffeine levels in energy drinks and adverse health and safety consequences, particularly among children, adolescents, and young adults.

Several federal lawmakers have also been probing the health effects of caffeine levels in energy drinks, writing to energy drink and energy shot manufacturers requesting details about their ingredients and holding hearings in Congress. The Democratic lawmakers said the investigation was prompted by “mounting concerns regarding the safety of this rapidly growing class of products.”

Vemma takes a step back

Citing this increased scrutiny of the effects of caffeine and marketing of energy drinks, Vemma recently announced that starting Sept. 1, the company would no longer allow anyone under 18 to become brand partners or buy the products. (The company required minors to have consent from parents or legal guardians and in January started requiring parents to also become co-brand partners.) Teens aged 14-17  were already brand partners before Sept. 1 are allowed to continue to build their business, the company said. In its news release, Vemma cited the increasing pressure it is facing from school officials, media and parents:

Several schools have banned Verve. We have also seen an increase in parental complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Also, the media has not looked favorably on our minor policy either in a few reports.

In an earlier video to parents, Boreyko, the Vemma CEO, said he tells youngsters to stop buying other energy drink products such as Rockstar, Monster, and Red Bull and start buying Verve. Said Boreyko:

Young people love this drink. …Big pitch with these kids is pretty simple: Stop drinking other drinks and drink Verve. It’s way healthier and you can promote it and have (the) opportunity to make money.

Just a few weeks before announcing the Sept. 1 ban on minors, Benson said in an August video on the company website:

Next month everybody is going to be going back to school and that’s when the real networking is going to begin.

He also discussed a new line of the energy drinks the company would be introducing.

Bonnie Patten, executive director of truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org), said the company should not allow any minors to be grandfathered in and allowed to buy the Verve product or sign others up to become brand partners or call the drink healthy.

“Verve products contain levels of caffeine that medical authorities clearly say are potentially dangerous to teens and young adults. It’s alarming and misleading that the company markets the products as healthy,’’ she said.

Read more here about energy drinks and issues relating to Vemma.

 

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Vemma Nutrition Company is a privately held multi-level marketing company that sells energy drinks, nutritional beverages and weight management products. Vemma, which calls itself an affiliate marketing company, is based in Tempe, Arizona. It was founded in 2004 by Benson K. Boreyko and his sisters. Vemma is an acronym for vitamins, essential minerals, mangosteen and aloe.

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4 Responses to Can an Energy Drink Claim to be Healthy?

  1. jwa39 says:

    Ken Stewart – not a doctor doesn’t have the first clue what he is talking about. Even a high school student knows that chemically there is no difference between “synthetic caffeine”, “regular caffeine” and “natural caffeine”. To your body it is the same chemical with the same chemical structure and the same mode of action no matter how many different names you want to give it. Your body doesn’t know the difference between caffeine that is made in a lab and caffeine that comes out of coffee beans and your body does not differentiate in how that caffeine (no matter from where it originates) is processed nor in how it acts. Statements such as those are as stupid as statements like “‘chemicals that are naturally occurring on the earth are better for your body than chemicals that were made in a lab”. Arsenic is naturally occurring and so is cyanide… both horrible for the body. Disinfectants that keep wounds from getting infected are made in labs… not bad for your body.

    Stop pontificating as though you know anything because you clearly do not. The articles you cited don’t prove anything either… if anything they worked against your argument since the caffeine from natural sources (coffee beans) peaked slightly faster and had slightly higher absorption than the caffeine from the capsules (which was the bad synthetic caffeine you seem to think is different). Your entire argument was predicated on the notion that natural caffeine was better for you because it didn’t absorb as fast and lasted longer but the very articles you cited proved otherwise. The natural caffeine did peak faster and absorbed faster. Though in all honesty the difference between the peak concentrations of caffeine from the capsules and the coffee/cola was considered not statistically significant since it was so minor and the reason the natural caffeine absorbed faster was in all likelihood due to the fact that it was in liquids which were highly acidic (coffee and cola) vs. the capsules which were not acidic. The acidic environment probably allowed the caffeine from the coffee and cola to more efficiently cross the GI tract membranes… but again the difference was so minor it was considered not significant (meaning it did not vary enough that it could be chalked up to anything). Next time you should post articles that back up your argument as opposed to prove them wrong… but you don’t seem too intelligent anyways. You should spend more of your time doing something productive instead of defending vemma products on the internet. The more time you spend being a mouth piece for the pyramid scheme the less time you’re out there ‘makin’ dat money and stackin’ paper from all them cycles you got on your legs, dog’.

    lol you idiot.

  2. tongster tongster says:

    I just don’t understand why people say energy drinks are bad because of caffeine but coffee isn’t.

  3. tongster tongster says:

    I just don’t understand why people say energy drinks are bad because of caffeine but coffee isn’t. Let me venture a guess here as to why statistics show energy drinks as bad. Energy drinks are typically used by consumers who like drinking from colorful cans of product that give them “wings” and make them feel “high”. Note that the coloful cans fit nicely within the culture of sports and raves. You can’t really say the same for coffee. And because a bigger proportion of energy drink consumers are not necessarily responsible when it comes to their actions, as opposed to coffee consumers, the statistical reports end up showing that energy drinks are bad.

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