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    Archive for the ‘taurine’ Category

    Red Bull for Weight Loss?

    176I have overheard some of the most interesting nutrition-related conversations while in line at Starbucks.

    This morning, two college-aged men behind me discussed the many pivotal roles that energy drink Red Bull plays in their lives.

    “Dude, that’s my breakfast whenever I have an 8 AM class,” the scruffy and lankier one sporting  sweatpants and a baseball cap said.  (FYI: This was at a Starbucks in the heart of New York University’s urban campus, where Summer classes are currently in session).

    “I just drink it whenever I eat junk,” his friend countered.  “It speeds up your metabolism, so I when I eat a lot of crap, it burns, like, twice the calories.”

    I was thisclose to turning around and saying something.  The words were about to catapult from the tip of my tongue when I thought, “wait a second, do I really want to be that guy?”

    Alas, I decided to tackle the issue here in case anyone else had similar thoughts on Red Bull consumption.

    A statement on the cans claims the cough-syrup-tasting carbonated beverage “stimulates metabolism.”  This is based on the presence of B vitamins, caffeine, and taurine.

    While caffeine increases heartrate and affects the nervous system in such a way as to heighten awareness, its metabolic effects are short-lived.

    B vitamins are necessary for energy transport at a cellular level, but they do not burn off excess calories.

    Besides, B vitamins are water-soluble, so excesses are excreted in urine (not stored up for calorie-burning).

    Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is actually a metabolite of two other amino acids.  It is also non-essential, meaning we do not need to obtain it from the diet.

    Some preliminary research conducted on endurance athletes has shown that high levels of taurine supplementation may increase stamina.

    Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the long-term effects of taurine supplementation.

    Red Bull’s ingredients can provide a temporary energy boost, which can come in handy before you engage in strenuous physical activity (in fact, there is a solid body of research showing that caffeine can improve athletic performance).

    In that sense, one could technically conclude that these drinks can result in a higher number of calories burned during exercise.

    Keep in mind, though, that a can of Red Bull adds 110 calories and 6 teaspoons of added sugar to your day.

    Even if you are chugging on a sugar-free version that only contains 10 calories, Red Bull and other energy drinks do not  negate or block the calories in a meal.


    In The News: What’s Next? Genetically Modified Bananas With Extra Potassium?

    Desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures.

    Currently experiencing a lull in revenue, coffee giant Starbucks jumps on the energy drink bandwagon 5 years after everyone else.

    That’s right — you can now amp any Starbucks beverage — hot or iced — by simply saying “plus energy” at the end of your order (dare you to order a “grande sugarfree vanilla decaf carameal macchiatto with breve plus energy” without stopping to take a breath!).

    The “plus energy” concoction — created by Starbucks’ “research and development team, a group of culinary experts, food scientists and product designers” — includes the usual suspects: ginseng, guarana, taurine, L-carnitine, and B vitamins.

    FYI: Guarana is a berry native to South America containing four times as much caffeine as coffee beans. It’s extremely popular in Brazil, where it is mainly consumed as a soda, in both regular and diet varieties.

    Is all this really necessary in a coffee-based drink? I vote “no.”

    Why are “energy mixes” billed as the only solution for a drop in energy levels? Is healthy eating and getting enough shut eye not “cool” enough?

    And why are we increasingly encouraging people to walk around like the Energizer bunny on crack?


    And The Most Unnecessary New Product Award Goes To…

    Snickers Charged.

    A “limited edition” Snickers bar sprinkled with caffeine, B vitamins, and taurine “to help get you through the day.”


    Okay, let’s break this down.

    A regular Snickers bar adds up to 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams (25% of a day’s worth) of saturated fat, and 30 grams (7.5 teaspoons) of sugar.

    Snickers Charged comes in at 250 calories, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 25 grams of sugar.

    The lower values are simply because Charged is smaller in size than its regular counterpart. The folks at Mars Inc. have not gotten more health conscious.

    Anyhow, Charged tacks on 60 milligrams of caffeine, 250 milligrams of taurine, and 10 percent of the daily value Vitamins B6 and B12.

    Can you say underwhelming?

    That same amount of B6 can be obtained from half a cup of avocado, one can of tuna, a single ounce of sunflower seeds, one quarter of a chicken breast, a quarter cup of fortified cereal, or half a banana.

    As for B12? Ten percent of the daily value can be found in 1 egg, ¾ cup of milk, 1/6 cup of fortified soymilk, 1 ounce of cheddar chese, 1/5 cup of Cherrios, 1/12 cup of Total cereal, 3 ounces of chicken breast, an ounce of shrimp, or HALF an ounce of lean hamburger meat (remember, a serving is three ounces).

    Snickers Charged is not providing hard-to-come by nutrition.

    Besides, B vitamins in and of themselves do not provide energy.

    The amount of caffeine in this product is also nothing spectacular. A tall latte at Starbucks offers more.

    Drinking a cup of coffee with a regular Snickers basically provides the same caffeine total.

    Now let’s talk taurine.

    Although it is found in seafood, dairy, and meat, it is a non-essential amino acid. In other words, our bodies naturally produce it. There is no need to seek it out in the diet.

    One of its main roles is regulating the cellular transport of sodium and potassium ions.

    There is no scientific body of evidence linking it with central nervous system stimulation.

    Frankly, I’m more than ready for this whole “energy” functional food fad to burn out.


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