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What preventive, responsible, and smart nutrition research covers at meetings

No one can say for sure how caffeine might interact with the myriad of other ingredients found in many energy drinks. Caffeine, which was extensively researched for possible links to birth defects in animals and cardiovascular disease in humans over 30 years ago and then exonerated, has become the focus of renewed concerns as caffeine-containing energy drinks have surged in popularity.

What preventive, responsible, and smart nutrition research covers at meetings.
Anne Hart, photography and book.

The FDA has begun an internal evaluation of caffeine’s safety and is expected to issue guidelines. However, according to a June 23rd panel discussion at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo® in New Orleans this week, a rich database of health evidence exists confirming the safety of caffeine for consumers at current levels of exposure. On the other hand, people with over-aroused central nervous systems could react to caffeine with anxiety, panic, jitters, or other symptoms of an over-stimulated nervous system.

Caffeine, which was extensively researched for possible links to birth defects in animals and cardiovascular disease in humans over 30 years ago and then exonerated, has become the focus of renewed concerns as caffeine-containing energy drinks have surged in popularity. However, according to a June 23rd panel discussion at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo® in New Orleans, a rich database of health evidence exists confirming the safety of caffeine for consumers at current levels of exposure. What isn’t known, however, is how caffeine might interact with the myriad of other ingredients found in many energy drinks.

In 2013, the U.S. Congress pressed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to look harder at the safety of caffeine

The FDA responded by sponsoring an Institute of Medicine scientific workshop in August 2013. Two areas of focus that came out of the workshop were the need to identify vulnerable populations that may be at risk from increased caffeine exposure and to pinpoint research gaps that need to be filled.

“I thought we had put these safety issues to bed in the 80s,” said James Coughlin, Ph.D., according to the June 24, 2014 news release, "Energy drinks raise new questions about caffeine's safety." Coughlin is with Coughlin and Associates, a consulting firm based in Aliso Viejo, California. “But today concerns are being raised because no one has gone back to look at this literature. There has been a lot of bad science related to caffeine that is fueling concerns.”

James C Griffiths, Ph.D, Vice President of Science & International Affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, in Washington, D.C. and a member of the panel, said, according to the June 24, 2014 news release, Energy drinks raise new questions about caffeine's safety, “CRN believes that no new regulations are necessary concerning caffeine-containing products, since there is overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating its safety. We’re all waiting to see what the FDA is going to do.“

About IFT

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Institute of Food Technologists. Since its founding in 1939, IFT has been committed to advancing the science of food, both today and tomorrow. Our non-profit scientific society—more than 18,000 members from more than 100 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professionals from academia, government and industry. For more information, please visit the IFT website.

Beware of the deceptive advertising of some weight loss products

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the dietary supplement industry’s leading trade association, demonstrated the responsible industry’s commitment to combat deceptive advertising of weight loss products in testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance. The hearing was titled, “Protecting Consumers from False and Deceptive Advertising of Weight-Loss Products.”

In his remarks, Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, addressed the current weight loss market as part of the ongoing tale of two industries with “legitimate manufacturers who responsibly produce products that work and make claims for their products within the bounds of the law, and unscrupulous players who prey on consumer desperation and the insatiable desire to be thin, and will say almost anything to make a quick profit.”

Acknowledging weight management as a critical issue in the United States, Mr. Mister pointed to the fact that there are dietary supplements that can serve as helpful weight loss tools when used in combination with other healthy habits. He emphasized that, in their pursuit to achieve a healthy weight, consumers deserve to receive “truthful, accurate and non-misleading information on dietary supplements and nutritional products.”

Mr. Mister presented CRN’s industry-wide program with the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ National Advertising Division (NAD), which helps self-police the advertising claims of dietary supplement marketers, as an example of CRN’s commitment to prevent dietary supplement marketers from making fraudulent claims, according to a June 17, 2014 news release, "CRN President Demonstrates Commitment to Combat Deceptive Advertising of Weight Loss Products at Senate Hearing."

Part of the solution to deceptive advertising of weight loss products is “expanding and strengthening self-policing programs among manufacturers and marketers within the industry,” like the NAD initiative, said Mr. Mister, according to the news release. And CRN is well equipped to continue to lead the responsible industry in such efforts. However, in addition to expanding self-regulatory programs, Mr. Mister emphasized that more must be done to protect consumers, “who unrealistically yearn for a magic bullet,” including increasing resources and enforcement by both the FTC and FDA

Those in the field of nutrition are calling on the media and online retailers to conduct advertising clearance and reject those with illegal claims; and finally, educating consumers on how to have realistic expectations for weight loss and protect themselves from weight loss claims that are too good to be true. The full text of Mr. Mister’s testimony can be found here.

Magnesium and your bones

Just because National Osteoporosis Month has come to an end doesn’t mean we can disregard the importance of bone health and strategies for keeping our bones at their strongest. We need to do things year-round, such as participating in weight-bearing exercises, eating foods rich in calcium, and adding calcium and magnesium supplements when our diet falls short.

In fact, when it comes to supplementation, a 2013 survey found 20 percent of all U.S. adults take supplements to support bone health, including 26 percent of all U.S. women, according to a 2013 Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements. And a new economic report demonstrates that the benefits of specific supplementation can extend well beyond preventive health.

The report, “Smart Prevention—Health Care Cost Savings Resulting from the Targeted Use of Dietary Supplements,” conducted by Frost & Sullivan through a grant from the Council for Responsible Nutrition Foundation (CRNF), indicates that for U.S. women aged 55+, taking magnesium supplements at the preventive intake levels identified in the report (100 mg) can reduce the risk of having an osteoporosis-related medical event by six percent and lead to significant individual and societal health care savings.

“It’s widely known that taking calcium supplements for bone health is a smart idea, from a health prevention standpoint, as they can play a significant role in helping to hinder bone-related conditions such as osteoporosis,” said Steve Mister, president, CRNF, according to a June 11, 2014 news release, "Magnesium and Your Bones: Partners in Health and Finance."

“Perhaps what’s less known is the role of magnesium in bone health. This economic report reinforces the importance of magnesium supplements, shedding light on the other side of the coin—those who are already coping with osteoporosis—and how taking magnesium supplements not only provides a health benefit, but a financial one, as well, through helping prevent medical events related to osteoporosis. Falls and bone breaks are not only painful, but costly.”

In particular, the report indicates that if women over the age of 55 with osteoporosis take magnesium supplements at preventive levels, the following economic impacts can be seen over the next several years

  • 548,000 osteoporosis-related medical events can be avoided between 2013 and 2020;
  • $6.8 billion in avoided expenditures could be realized cumulatively between 2013 and 2020; and
  • $4.8 billion in savings could be realized cumulatively between 2013 and 2020.

“The report’s financial findings are most important to those women 55+ currently managing osteoporosis, which is expected to rise 13 percent through 2020. According to CRN’s research, only 11 percent of these women take magnesium supplements, which means 89 percent still have yet to benefit,” said Mr. Mister, in the news release. “Given how costly managing osteoporosis and disease-related events can be, we encourage people to consider the impactful role magnesium supplements can play on their bodies and the nation’s health care wallet.”

Magnesium, found largely in our bones, is lost as we age, causing weaker bones and an increased risk for bone breaks

Taking magnesium supplements, costing on average nine cents per day at preventive intake levels, according to the Frost & Sullivan report, can help stop bone loss or increase bone mineral density. To achieve the report findings, Frost & Sullivan conducted a systematic review of scientific research in peer-reviewed, published studies that looked at a relationship between magnesium supplement intake and the risk of an osteoporosis-attributed event.

The firm then projected the rates of osteoporosis-attributed medical events across U.S. women over the age of 55 with osteoporosis and applied a cost benefit analysis to determine the cost savings if people in this targeted population took magnesium supplements at preventive intake levels. The full Frost & Sullivan economic report and accompanying materials, including a magnesium supplement infographic, are available for free at the website Supplement for Smart Prevention.org.