Functional Beverages: Fad or Future? | God's World News

Functional Beverages: Fad or Future?

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    A Kroger supermarket in Marietta, Georgia, offers cans of Olipop, a drink containing botanicals, plant fibers, and prebiotics. Functional beverages have grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry. (AP/Mike Stewart)
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    Odyssey mushroom elixir claims to improve concentration. (AP/John Minchillo)
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    Dispensers with flavors of Charged Lemonade at a Panera Bread Company restaurant (AP/Ted Shaffrey)
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    Celsius is a fitness drink that says it can accelerate metabolism. (AP/John Minchillo)
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    A Remedy Organics plant-based shake with prebiotics, lion’s mane mushrooms, and other ingredients (AP/John Minchillo)
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Quenching thirst can be complicated these days. Every drink promises some kind of fat-burning, gut-healing, skin-brightening, brain-boosting superpower. What’s more, hundreds of brands hype ever more exotic ingredients and health claims. Welcome to the functional beverage craze—wherein drink makers design fluids for more than hydration or taste.

The enhanced fluid circus began in the late 1980s. That’s when caffeine- and vitamin-laced energy drinks like Red Bull charged onto the scene.

Today, functional beverages—liquids that feature specific ingredients or supposed health benefits—are a multi-billion-dollar industry. Sodas made with mushrooms supposedly improve mental clarity, and juices packed with bacteria might enhance digestion. Water infused with collagen promises better skin, and energy drinks claim to burn body fat.

It’s a juice jungle. Consumer intelligence company NielsenIQ counted 53,000 Universal Product Code symbols in the U.S. functional beverage category last year. That includes the various flavors of energy drinks, sports drinks, sodas, waters, shakes, and teas intended to enhance mental or physical health.

The Bible affirms “nourishing” and “cherishing” our bodies. (Ephesians 5:29) That can include carefully considering what we put into them. But counting on health drinks to make up for poor choices isn’t a sound strategy, and some of the so-called “energy drinks” have been overdone—especially by young people—to the detriment of health.

Randy Burt studies foods and beverages. He doesn’t see demand for functional beverages slowing down—even as experts recognize the rise of confusing choices and disputed health claims.

Still, nutritionists admit consuming healthier beverages than super-sweetened sodas and juice drinks is a good idea. But they caution that people should read ingredient labels—especially pregnant women and people taking medicine or with other health issues.

“It’s important to remember that everything has the potential to be both toxic and safe, depending on the amounts. The dose makes the poison,” says toxicologist Joe Zagorski.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates ingredients and requires truthful labels. The Federal Trade Commission can intervene if companies make false claims—as when Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice claimed its product could treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease.

Functional beverage makers often make less specific claims. Yet the science behind some is still unsound. One sparkling tea says an ingredient “supports skin hydration and elasticity.” But there’s no solid evidence that it does.

Worse than not working, negative reactions and interactions can happen with some ingredients. Panera Bread faces at least two lawsuits claiming its highly caffeinated Charged Lemonade led to the deaths of people with heart conditions.

Health professor Corrie Whisner isn’t swallowing the functional beverage hype. In fact, she votes for giving them a pass. Her advice? “Just eat real food. Then you know what you’re getting.”

Why? Discernment about “health” foods and fads is a tool everyone should develop.

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