Press Clips: Overconsumption of Energy Drinks Gives Man Hepatitis; Boulder’s Proposed Tax on Sugary Drinks Snares Kombucha

Researchers Say Man’s Energy Drink Habit Led to Toxic Levels of Niacin in Liver

BMJ Case Reports, a resource site for healthcare professionals, last week reported that excessive consumption of energy drinks caused a 50-year-old man to develop acute hepatitis, an inflammatory condition of the liver. According to an article on CNN.com, the BMJ report stated that the “previously healthy man” was admitted to an emergency room with a two-week history of problems, including malaise, anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, generalised jaundice, and dark urine, the latter two symptoms being signs of hepatitis. Prior to his decline in health, the man had not changed his diet, claimed to abstain from tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and said that he did not engage in high-risk sexual behavior.

Energy Drink

Researchers from the University of Florida College of Medicine noticed one possible cause of the problems: before he was hospitalized, the man guzzled four to five cans of energy drinks every day for three weeks. Hepatitis is commonly caused by a virus, however, a biopsy of his liver found that the damage was caused by drugs or toxins. An examination of a blood sample found high levels of folic acid and vitamin B12, both of which are common ingredients in energy drinks. When the vitamins are consumed excessively they can accumulate in the liver and become toxic, according to the report.

However, the report zeroed in on another common energy drink ingredient, vitamin B3, also known as niacin, as damaging the man’s liver. Among ingredients commonly used in energy drinks, niacin is the only one that causes liver damage, the report stated. Researchers made the determination that the man’s injury “was directly subsequent to excessive consumption of energy drinks.” It’s not the first time that energy drinks have been tied to a case of acute hepatitis: in 2011 researchers from Staten Island University Hospital found that a woman’s 10-can-a-day consumption of energy drinks caused her to develop the liver disorder.

Proposed Soda Tax in Boulder Affects Local Kombucha Makers

rowdyTomorrow, residents of Boulder, Colo. will vote on a ballot measure that, if passed, will levy a 2-cents-per-ounce excise tax on drinks that contain five grams of added sugar per 12 oz. serving. Although the tax would most directly impact highly sweetened sodas, some local beverage makers are crying foul because some of their products would be affected by the tax as well.

Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha founder Jamba Dunn told Boulder Daily Camera that he launched his company in part because he wanted to offer consumers a healthy alternative to soda and other sugary drinks. Kombucha, a fermented tea laden with probiotics, is generally considered to be a healthy beverage. However, Rowdy Mermaid markets three products contain slightly more than five grams of sugar per 12 oz., and thus would be subject to the tax. Dunn said that he would likely discontinue those drinks if the measure passes.

Meanwhile some beverage companies marketing better-for-you drinks, including Upstart Kombucha and water kefir maker Doctor D’s, would see their entire product lines taxed. “Unfortunately the law does nothing to differentiate between drinks like ours and drinks [from ‘Big Soda’],” said Doctor D’s co-founder Stuart Dimson told Daily Camera.

Analysis: Sports Drink Sales Fueled by Scientific Sponsorship and Creative Marketing

A recent article on independent news site The Conversation questions the validity of some scientific research that ties sports drinks to enhanced athletic performance. The article cites a British Medical Journal investigation which examined the growing rate of drink companies sponsoring of scientists to carry out research on hydration. The practice has led to a divergence in actual versus perceived thirst, according to The Conversation.

“One of industry’s greatest successes was to pass off the idea that the body’s natural thirst system is not a perfect mechanism for detecting and responding to dehydration,” the article states.

Moreover, while most consumers of sports drinks exercise just a few hours a week, the sponsored research on the beverages is based on “highly trained volunteers who sustain exercise at high intensity for long periods.” The article also points to a possible link between sports drinks and childhood obesity, noting that a 500 mL bottle typically contains 20 grams of sugar.

AriZonaAriZona Co-Founder Discusses Company’s $0.99 Strategy

Last month Thrillist examined the longtime pricing strategy of iced tea heavyweight AriZona, which labels many of its 23 oz. cans at $0.99. Company co-owner and CMO Spencer Vultaggio (who is the son of co-founder, Don Vultaggio), told Thrillist that the price point — which has been in place for over 15 years — is “a big part of our overall strategy” and allows the company to keep marketing and advertising costs low.

“We feel like it’s more important to spend money on something that our customer really cares about, instead of buying billboards or putting our cans in the hands of some celebrity for a few minutes,” Vultaggio told Thrillist.

Over the past decade-and-a-half AriZona has improved operational efficiencies as a way to maintain the $0.99 price point, according to Vultaggio. He said that the company fills cans nearly double the speed as in the late 1990s, uses 40 percent less aluminum as compared to older cans, and sends its truckers out at night to avoid traffic.

Vultaggio admitted that its “hard to police” the practice of some retailers who charge more than $0.99 price listed on cans, but “we definitely try to protect that suggested retail price because, again, the price is part of us.”