Ingredients for Energy and Immunity

One of the hottest trends is designing and marketing foods and beverages promising quick fixes to our energy- and health-deprived society.

By Kantha Shelke, Ph.D.

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Pharma gamma aminobutyric acid (Pharma-GABA), which recently achieved GRAS status, is becoming popular in Japan as an ingredient to promote mental focus. Recently, it segued from supplement to beverage ingredient. "Rather than produce yet another caffeine-containing energy beverage, we secured the rights to Pharma-GABA as the key step in launching a new type of energy beverage," says Peter van Stolk, president and CEO of Jones Soda Co. (www.jonesoda.com), Seattle.

What's the Buzz?

Of course, consumers worry about the contents, consequences and "crash" from their pick-me-ups. Alex Hughes, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at UCLA Hospital and CEO, MD Drinks Inc. (www.functiondrinks.com), Santa Monica, Calif., created Function Alternative Energy - a time-released energy formula of rainforest-sourced ingredients catuaba, epimedium (icarriin), guarana, muira puma and yerba maté - "as a true performance enhancer without limiting health ramifications."


Read More on Pharmacokinetic ingredients

Stoked competes with other high-octane stimulant drinks for a share of the younger,
Stoked competes with other high-octane stimulant drinks for a share of the younger, "gamers" market.

According to Alex Hughes, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at UCLA Hospital and CEO, MD Drinks Inc. (www.functiondrinks.com), Santa Monica, Calif., pharmacokinetics - the rate of absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of a compound from the body - guided selection of ingredients for MD Drinks' Function Alternative Energy beverage. For his formulations, he chose tropane and xanthine alkaloids, known for their mild stimulating effects, plus betaine alkaloids for their mood effects.

Icariin, from the Asian plant Epimedium grandiflorum, is included for its nitric oxide-enhancing properties is another key ingredient. Nitric oxide is a chemical signalling molecule relaxes smooth muscles and has been studied for its ability to dilate blood vessels. Some heart studies indicate it has value in treatment for lung function in infants and cardiovascular disease in heart patients. It also has been shown in animal studies to control erectile dysfunction.


These ingredients help allow for sequential onset and elevation of energy for six to eight hours without the heart palpitations or crashes associated with glucaronolactone or L-taurine - stimulant hallmarks of traditional energy drinks. Hughes credits Wild Flavors with technical assistance with flavors while formulating with ingredients not used before in beverages.

An emerging trend is to move toward more natural energy ingredients. The Organic Beverage Co., a subsidiary of Integrated BioPharma Inc. (www.ibiopharma.com), Hillside, N.J., created Syzmo. Syzmo is sweetened with organic blue agave nectar, and has no preservatives or artificial colors and flavors. Its active ingredients include organic coffee fruit (which surrounds the bean) concentrate, guarana, green tea and yerba maté.

Not just beverages

Beverages aren't the only vehicles of energy. Jelly Belly Candy Co. (www.jellybelly.com), Fairfield, Calif., formulated Jelly Belly Sports Beans for portable energy with electrolytes, carbohydrates and vitamins B and C. Willow Lake, S.D.-based Dakota Valley Products Inc. (www.sumseeds.com) won a fan base of truckers, gamers, programmers and construction workers who rely on its SumSeeds caffeinated sunflower seeds for an energy buzz. Each ounce of SumSeeds has 35mg of caffeine, without bitterness.

Another enhanced savory snack is NRG Phoenix Fury Potato Chips, by Golden Flake Snack Foods (www.goldenflake.com), Birmingham, Ala. The company infused the chips with taurine, caffeine and B-Vitamins because "the fastest growing categories in food are the energy-related products," says Julie McLaughlin, marketing director.

Energy into Immunity

Green Giant is taking smart advantage of the natural immunity boosters in fruits and vegetables.
Green Giant is taking smart advantage of the natural immunity boosters in fruits and vegetables.

Usually people reach for tea or coffee when tired. Discovery that coffee's high antioxidant levels could make it a powerful deterrent to illness prompted Michael Sweeney, president of Soave Republic Inc. (www. SpavaCoffee.com), Houston, Tex., to develop a revolutionary fortification technology to infuse coffee beans with a variety of all-natural supplements.

Sweeney complements the first fortified, all-organic, fair-trade Spavin by making the entire process "from our exact supplement ingredients and quantities to our bean provenance available for review." Spavin Clarity contains ginkgo biloba, white tea and other natural substances believed to boost short-term memory, while Spavin Immunity has echinacea, rosehips and other ingredients touted to ward off colds and promote wellness.

Zafi Beverages Inc. (www.zafibeverages.com), Bensenville, Ill., also combined energy drinks with immunity ingredients. In its Low-Carb Ultralight Zafi and Pumped Zafi drinks, Zafi includes folic acid for its cell-protection and stress-releasing properties, and inositol for its fundamental role in the nerve, brain and muscle function.

System Analysis

The human immune system is made up of three layers of defense - physical barriers, the innate or humeral-based system, and the adaptive or cell-based system - all working simultaneously. Maximum protection is afforded when all three work perfectly; a chink in the armor makes one prone to bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infection based illnesses. Physical exertion, nutritional irregularities, caloric restriction, aging, emotional stress, environmental conditions, or sleep deprivation also cause undulations in the preparedness and effectiveness of our immune system.

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