Ask Dr. Chet

Ask Dr. Chet

Dr. Chet Zelasko is dedicated to helping men and women get healthy and fit. As a health and fitness consultant with a PhD in Exercise Physiology and Health Education from Michigan State University, he provides information based on the most recent research and delivers it in a way that's easy to understand. His strength is the ability to explain complex scientific health concepts and translate them into simple lifestyle choices that people can use to achieve optimal health.

Dr. Chet (as we like to call him) was voted one of the Top 10 Teachers at Ball State University and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist.

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In a recently published study, researchers reported on the relationship bet ...
In a recently published study, researchers reported on the relationship between energy drink consumption and the risk for alcohol dependence.They reported that high consumption of energy drinks was associated with an increased risk for alcohol dependence.

So should you put down that energy drink? I don’t think so. We should focus instead on underage drinking. For a complete analysis of this topic, click here.

Researchers have announced that energy drinks are resulting in increases in alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse on college campuses.

While the studies certainly seem to be making headlines, does this research really indicate a relationship between energy drink use and alcohol consumption on college campuses? Does the use of energy drinks increase alcohol intake in college students today? Let’s take a look.

In a recently published study, researchers reported on the relationship between energy drink consumption and the risk for alcohol dependence (1). The research was part of an ongoing study conducted at a large east-coast public university. This represented the fourth year the same students were tested.

The researchers used a food frequency questionnaire to assess the energy drink consumption as well as other drinks consumed in the past year. They also collected data on alcohol use, and used assessments that determine officially sanctioned characteristics for alcohol abuse. The researchers reported that based on their statistical analysis, a high consumption of energy drinks was associated with an increased risk for alcohol dependence.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Should you put down that energy drink or take them away from your college students? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

The problem starts with defining high use of energy drinks. They suggest that 10% of the study’s 1,097 students were heavy users of energy drinks. But that definition included people who drank energy drinks once a week or even less as well as those who averaged one energy drink every other day.

If you examine the data, only 29 students—2.6%—actually averaged one-half can of energy drink per day. (With that criterion, my 88-year-old father-in-law would fall into that group.) The high-use subjects also drank more caffeinated drinks other than energy drinks such as coffee, tea, and colas. The researchers did not perform the same analysis with any of those drinks as they did with energy drinks.

This is a crucial oversight: it means that their conclusion that high-frequency users of energy drinks were at risk for alcohol dependence isn’t correct. Because almost all of the energy drinks used in the study contained high amounts of sugar, as did the soft drinks, alcohol dependence could also be related to coffee intake, soda intake, fluid intake, or sugar intake--as well as being in college for four years.

Don’t laugh--prior research shows that the greater the level of education, the greater the risk of alcohol abuse (2). The researchers didn’t check any of those factors.

Another problem is that while they asked how many drinks the students had during a drinking session, they did not report what they drank. They made a point of saying that the energy drink users drank more alcohol than those who used energy drinks infrequently or never, but they did not report what kind of alcohol they drank.

The college drink of choice is still beer--mostly because it’s the least expensive. In spite of the recent spate of news reports on alcoholic drinks that contain caffeine, more students drink beer than any other drink. The information on what they drank would have been good to know; six or more drinks mixed with hard liquor would have much more alcohol than six beers. We don’t even know whether the students drank liquor mixed with energy drinks, which is a key point. For example, if you’re more likely to drink a mixed drink with orange juice than water, is it fair to blame the orange?

One of the research’s significant problems was the lack of a control group that had graduated one, two, or even five years ago. To answer the question of whether energy drink use contributes to alcohol dependence, researchers would have needed to find out if there was an increase in alcohol dependency in graduates who drank energy drinks.

Without that comparison, there’s really no way to know whether energy drinks put someone at risk for alcohol dependence at a greater rate--which is what they’re suggesting--or they’re simply college students being college students. Instead of coffee, tea, juice, or milk being their typical daily drink of choice, it’s now energy drinks; more than anything else, that simply reflects the time in which we live.

Is there more binge drinking going on today than ever before? Based on the definition of five or more alcoholic drinks per day for men and four or more alcoholic drinks per day for women, they answer is a resounding no (3).

In data published in 1995 from a survey with close to 18,000 college students from all over the United States, 44% of all students reported binge drinking and 19% were frequent binge drinkers. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 25.6% of the respondents to a phone survey in the 18 to 24 age group reported being binge drinkers (4); however, those numbers reflect people who use land-line telephones. In people who use cell phones, 35.4% in the 18 to 24 age group demographic reported being binge drinkers.

As college-age people are more likely to use cell phones, that number may be closer to the actual binge drinking that takes place on college campuses. There’s no real change in binge drinking in the past 25 years.

Remember, the current study reported about 10% of the students who were high users of energy drinks were binge drinkers. One could interpret the data to mean that people who frequently use energy drinks are not as likely to be binge drinkers when compared to national statistics--one out of 10 instead of one out of three. If the researchers had focused on alcohol consumption by underage students instead of energy drink consumption, they might have discovered a completely different relationship. Instead, what they have created is a misplaced controversy.

To restate a line from a well-known political advisor: it’s the alcohol, stupid. It would do the researchers well to provide a comparison with all the known data. Maybe if they drank an energy drink now and then, they’d have had the alertness and energy to do the job right.



1. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2011 35(2):365-375
2. Public Health Reports. 1998; 1(3): 52-54.
3. MMWR October 8, 2010; 59(39): 1274-794. JAMA. 1994 Dec 7;272(21):1672-7.

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that's critical to making healthy blood c ...
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that’s critical to making healthy blood cells--your body won’t make enough of them if you don’t have enough B12. Then your ability to carry oxygen becomes impaired, and that means a decrease in energy. B12 is also integral to your nervous system functions and to help your body make DNA (1). Those three reasons are good enough to make sure that you get plenty of vitamin B12 every day, but you may wonder: if some is good, is more better? And how much is too much?
That’s the question that was considered by the Committee from the Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board when they set the Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin B12 and other nutrients (2). This is not exciting work, reviewing study after study to find out how much of a nutrient we need, what amount might cause a deficiency, and what amount may be too much. Considering the last question, the Committee did not set an Upper Tolerable Limit for vitamin B12. Why? Because they could find no research to suggest that vitamin B12 was harmful, whether consumed as food or supplement, administered directly into the bloodstream, or injected into muscle. What they did find was research demonstrating that the more vitamin B12 a person took in supplement form, the less would be absorbed. In effect, the body self-regulates the amount of vitamin B12 it will allow.
That begs the question: why take more if it won’t be absorbed? While less will be absorbed the more you take, you will still take in more vitamin B12. For example, based on the numbers used in the research, about 60% of a 5 mcg dose will be absorbed or about 3 mcg. If more than 500 mcg is taken, then absorption could drop to 1% or 5 mcg. Obviously 5 is more than 3, so even though less is absorbed proportionally, more reaches the blood stream. If taken in smaller doses over the day, even more could be absorbed. So if you use a product with high amounts of vitamin B12, there should be no concern about megadosing based on the research to date.
2. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998.

“Do you think giving my child an XS Energy Drink could help with attenti ...

“Do you think giving my child an XS Energy Drink could help with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?”

It’s a question I’ve heard often, based on the logic that pharmaceutical stimulants are one approach used to treat ADHD. Because they have the opposite effect in children, the thinking goes, could XS do the same thing? 

The answer is possibly.

While there’s no direct research on the combined ingredients in XS, several of the ingredients have been tested individually. I’ll review the research and talk about the factors involved.

Whatever approach parents use, it should be done under the supervision of their healthcare professionals. They should be your partners in finding the best health solutions for the entire family, so let them know what you’re doing.

Let’s begin with caffeine. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and is typically studied to see what, if any, negative effects it causes in children, especially teenagers. While it can cause jitteriness and interfere with sleep, the research used high-sugar drinks with and without caffeine. The sugar is a confounding variable.

Caffeine is a methylxanthine and in the same classification as theophylline, a medication used for lung disorders. In research that included both caffeine and methylxanthines for lung conditions, researchers examined whether there were increased problems with focus and learning. They found none. Researchers also wrote that parents reported their children were less hyperactive after using these substances. While not conclusive, it seems to support research in adults that shows an increase in focus and attentiveness when caffeine is used regularly.

Let’s turn to B vitamins. There are few studies that have looked directly at B vitamins for ADHD. However, research has demonstrated that severe vitamin B12 deficiency can result in neurological deficiencies in infants, children, and adults. That probably isn’t exactly what’s going on in ADHD, but the logic of using vitamin B12 for neurological issues makes sense. Vitamin B12 as well as vitamin B6 helps the body make energy--that will be true in the brain as well as the rest of the body, and the increase in energy production may help the brain work better. We don’t know for sure, but it makes sense.

Finally, herbs such as ginseng and ginkgo biloba have shown modest improvements in attention when used for ADHD. So where does that leave parents?

I think that XS may be beneficial for ADHD; it’s certainly worth trying.

The ingredients contain nutrients such as B vitamins, stimulants such as caffeine, and herbs such as ginseng, which have shown potential benefits for attentiveness. The question is how to proceed. Starting with caffeine-free XS is prudent; parents often don’t know how their children will respond to caffeine, and starting with the caffeine-free version will provide the benefit of the B vitamins for brain function.

The next question is how much? A good starting place is one-half can for children under 10, both before and after school, and a full can for children over 10 before school, and another full can after school. Do a trial run over a weekend to see how your children respond. Remember, it may help them focus better, but it may not slow them down.

How about the regular version of XS? When I was a baby, my mother fed me coffee with sugar in a baby bottle instead of juices or other drinks--there were no questions or concerns about caffeine like we have today.

Personally, I’m not opposed to giving children caffeine, especially when a parent is trying to see if it may benefit their child. So, if the caffeine-free version phase goes well, I would next try the same approach with the caffeinated version of XS: one-half can before and after school for kids under10 and a full can for those over 10 before and after school, trying it on a weekend first.

The important thing is to approach this in a step-wise manner--that’s the only way you’ll know what works to help your child with ADHD.


1. Int J Psychophysiol. 2009 Sep;73(3):355-61.

2. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996 Mar;150(3):284-8.

3. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 1998 Feb;6(1):87-95.

4. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2001 May;26(3):221-8.

If you don't have enough B vitamins on board, the conversion of carbs to energy ...

If you don’t have enough B vitamins on board, the conversion of carbs to energy is slower and it’s harder to use fat as a fuel. Although XS Energy Drinks don’t have calories, they contain the critical B vitamins that help you convert energy stored in your body into energy to power your activities!

How can an energy drink that contains no calories give you energy? I get asked that all the time. I understand that it doesn’t seem to make sense. It didn’t make sense to my third-year college students in exercise physiology either--until we covered the chapter on the role of vitamins in energy production.

There are two main sources of fuel for the body: carbohydrates and fat. Proteins can be used, but the body would prefer not using it. 

The breakdown of carbohydrates starts with a process called glycolysis; it doesn’t make very much energy because its role is to break sugar into smaller parts. Thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), and biotin are all used in the glycolysis process, but vitamin B6 is clearly the critical vitamin because it’s used at the beginning of the pathway to get stored sugar ready for processing. If you don’t have enough vitamin B6, the whole process is slowed down. Then without enough B5, the rest of the process can get jammed up.

The same is true for the next step in what’s called the Krebs cycle. The products of glycolysis are processed further to make more energy and a substance that will be used to make even more energy later. Niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B5, and vitamin B12 are all important for that process to occur.

Vitamin B12 also has another role: to reduce the body’s levels of homocysteine, a measure of inflammation. When you exercise, homocysteine increases. Vitamin B12 helps convert homocysteine into methionine, thereby reducing inflammation; that has the potential to help you exercise harder and longer. But B12’s job doesn’t end there. When new cells are produced, vitamin B12 is integral to the production of DNA and RNA--both needed to build new muscle cells. While these two functions aren’t technically energy production, it certainly contributes to feeling more energized all the time.

Fat metabolism is much more complicated, but also uses the same B vitamins as glycolysis. The end result is a product that enters the Krebs cycle, and the energy cycle is perpetuated. Because we have a lot more stored fat than stored carbohydrates, the more B vitamins we have, the more fat we can potentially use as a fuel. And I think using up stored fat is something we’d all like to do more.

Next time someone says, “Where does the energy come from?”

Now you’ve got your answer.

Following is specific scientific information demonstrating the safety and effe ...

Following is specific scientific information demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of XS Energy Drinks for college athletes. Banned substances are a common concern and one that formulators for XS drinks anticipated, carefully crafting the drink to fit into the needs of those in elite performance who are monitored for banned substances. There are several issues that have come up over the years that relate to NCCA regulations-

1] The current regulations at NCAA are "non-regulations". All athletes are discouraged from using ANY supplements because of doping scams like the BALCO scam. The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) in Burlingame, California was guilty of doping athletes including  Dwain Chambers, Marion Jones Tim Montgomery, baseball players Barry BondsJason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, and several members of the Oakland Raiders.

There are no performance enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids in any XS Energy drinks. The only real concern from the NCCA perspective regarding XS Energy Drinks are the potential caffeine levels. According to regulations, caffeine levels in the blood must be low enough so that an athletes will not test positive in their urine for caffeine—the concentration in urine should not exceed 15 micrograms/ml. If an athlete consumes a drink with 100 mg of caffeine and their urine is tested 75 minutes later (the standard), their urine will show 1.5 micrograms/ml. So, if you do the math this is 1/10 the limit. In other words, a person would have to consume 12 cans of XS (@ 83 mg/can) to go over the “NCAA Banned Substances” allowed limit. Many coaches are excited to find out that small amounts of caffeine can be taken by athletes to improve training, as long as they don’t overdo it. For comparison sake, a typical cup of coffee contains anywhere from 40mg to 150mg of caffeine per cup. Some have higher amounts approaching 210mg.

2] The ingredients in XS Energy drinks are free of steroid contaminants which are sometimes found in supplements. Contamination of amino acids (Taurine and Glutamine) and vitamins by steroid residues are avoided by the fact that XS does it's own mixing from factory sourced ingredients, there is no middleman. Companies that buy in smaller quantities are required to purchase from suppliers that are packaging many different products in the same facility. 

3] Taurine has received negative reviews as a performance altering substance. In 2000,  Ross Cooney, a healthy 18 year old  died after sharing four cans of a Taurine energy drink before a football game. An inquiry into his death ruled that he died from Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome and the connection to the energy drink was inconclusive. But, due to the link with the energy drink and therefore Taurine, local authorities categorized the energy drink as a medicine and suggest customers ask for medical advice before drinking it. This episode has generated the bulk of the urban myths about the dangers of consuming Taurine.

Unfortunately, Taurine has taken a beating as a political football being kicked around by those who seek to ban all nutritional supplements by athletes. Taurine is a non essential amino acid- this means that it is already being produced in our body. It is therefore a harmless supplement and since it is already produced in our body, it seems that extra supplementation in the form of XS drinks, has many benefits as a daily nutritional supplement. 

In defense of adding Taurine to XS drinks, take note that Taurine is required in infant formulas because of its importance in neurological development. Also, under certain conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and seizure disorders, an individual's Taurine requirements goes up considerably. Clinically, nutritionally oriented doctors regularly prescribe 1000-5000 mg of Taurine daily. Researchers into the benefits of Taurine have noted that Taurine modulates the production and activity of cAMP. It is intimately involved with the contractility of the heart and it also facilitates the passage of sodium, potassium and possibly calcium and magnesium through the cell membrane. Taurine has been tested medically in the treatment of congestive heart failurecystic fibrosisdiabetesepilepsy and several other conditions with very positive results.

4] The other amino acid in XS drinks is glutamine. Glutamine can help the body adapt to chronic stress which can cause low energy and fatigue. The adrenal glands produce stress hormones in response to sensations of anxiety, fear and pain.  Adrenal exhaustion can happen after prolonged periods of stress. Over time, the body over-secretes cortisol-- triggered by daily stress from family, work, sports can cause fatigue. Cortisol prolongs the "flight or fight" response  by promoting a sustained rush" of energy. Symptoms of adrenal deficiency include many situations where conventional medical doctors are prescribing antidepressant medication. Over time, chronic stress can take on the clinical picture and features of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). To help you with your understanding of the importance of glutamine for a competitive athlete, I have included an attachment of a glutamine monograph. While I was working with the Canadian Olympic team, glutamine was one of the only supplements we "strongly" encouraged our athletes to take to ensure proper recover and adaptation to training and racing. 

5] There are very low levels of B vitamins in each can, especially high B-12 levels. Vitamin B-12 seems to give a sense of energy and prevent fatigue, the mechanism for this is still unclear. But, it is well known that B-12 has been used by medical doctors to improve energy and prevent fatigue for over 50 years. In one study 28 men and women who complained of tiredness but had normal serum B-12 levels and no other physical problems were treated with vitamin B-12. injections of B-12, 5000 mmg 2x day for 2 weeks followed by a 2 week rest period improved energy whereas placebo had no effect. (Ellis, Nasser, A pilot study of B-12 in the treatment of tiredness. Brit J Nutr. 30:277-83,1973.)

6] Adaptogenic herbs and ginseng work with the amino acids and B vitamins to enhance athletic recovery. The amount of pure ginsenocides is quite low in each can. Athletes need to know this because there are some concerns that ginseng is an athletic performance enhancing substance. At current XS dose/can, the ginseng is a therapeutically small dose. The typical suggested dose by medical doctors is 5 mg of ginsenosides with a ratio of 2:1 for the Rb1 to Rg1. To get this concentration one might have to take 100 mg of a high quality Panax ginseng. XS has  about 1/100th the clinical dosage of gincenocide Rg1 as described in the German E monographs for Korean ginseng. Currently there is no ban on the use of ginseng by athletes.

In a recently published editorial in a leading medical journal, public health re ...

In a recently published editorial in a leading medical journal, public health researchers called into question the high amounts of caffeine put into energy drinks (1). Their definition of high amounts is greater than 50 to 70 mg per serving. They call that high? There’s more caffeine in a shot of espresso than in most energy drinks!

But to keep the debate rational, I thought I would check on the amounts of caffeine considered high by a well-respected sports nutrition association: The International Society of Sports Nutrition. In a Position Paper published in 2010, the Society considered 3 to 6 mg/kg body weight a low-to-moderate dose of caffeine (2). To put that in perspective, I weigh 220 pounds as of this writing. That’s 100 kg--I just divided my weight by 2.2 to calculate the kilograms. That means before exercise, a low dose of caffeine would be 300 mg for me. The Society’s definition of high is greater than 9 mg/kg body weight; to get my 900-mg high dose of caffeine, I’d have to drink almost 11 cans of XS, and I don’t think I want to run with that much liquid on board.

If members of a respected society of sports nutritionists, who have examined all the research on exercise and caffeine intake under all types of severe physical conditions, have established that 200 to 300 mg caffeine is low, why would public health officials consider more than 50 mg per serving risky? It makes no sense. Establishing consistent definitions would greatly help the discussion, and it would be beneficial for public health officials to check on what sports nutritionists have to say on the matter.


1. JAMA: doi:10.1001/jama.2011.109

2. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:5

We're hooked on sugar in North America, and our sweet tooth has very real conseq ...
We’re hooked on sugar in North America, and our sweet tooth has very real consequences. Over the past 30 years, according to research reported in a recent medical journal, our consumption of sugars has increased from 10% to almost 16% of our calories (1). For most people, a lot of that increase comes from sugar-laden drinks such as soda, with significant health implications. The extra calories we don’t realize we’re taking in add pounds and result in 70% of us being overweight.

But there’s more to it than just extra weight. In a large group of female subjects, researchers checked the relationship between fructose and gout--literally, a pain in the joints (2); they also checked who was drinking sugar-free drinks. The researchers found that drinking just one sugary drink per day increased the risk of getting gout by 75%. If a woman drank more than two sugary drinks per day, it increased the risk 1.5 times!

On the other hand, if a woman drank sugar-free drinks, there was no increase in the risk of gout. While the risk is low to begin with, increasing the risk by drinking high-fructose corn syrup sodas is just asking for trouble.

Spare your body as many calories as you can by drinking sugar-free drinks. That’s why XS Energy Drinks are such a great choice: no sugar, B vitamins, adaptogenic herbs, and a little caffeine to get us going and keep us going--or caffeine-free if you prefer. It’s a wise choice to reduce the wear and tear on your body caused by the overuse of sugar.


1. JAMA, 2010;303(15): 1490-1497.

2. JAMA. 2010;304(20):2270-2278.

If you're serious about working out, you want to make sure you have enough energ ...
If you’re serious about working out, you want to make sure you have enough energy to get through tough workouts. XS Energy Drinks provide nutrients that support your ability to make energy, but many of you ask, “What’s the best way to use XS for working out?” Let me give you a few examples starting with myself.

I drink an XS--usually Cran-Grape--about an hour before I run. That serves a couple of purposes. The caffeine will release some of the fatty acids my body can use for energy. Of course, you start using stored glycogen first but within a few minutes, your body will use fat as a fuel depending on the intensity of the workout. My typical run is completely aerobic, so I shift to using fat as a fuel fairly quickly. That’s also great for losing weight if that’s your goal. But the real benefit comes about 30 minutes into my workout. Just when I might start to lag--Bam! The B vitamins hit and that gives me the additional energy to finish my run strong.

What about weight training? The same principles apply. While you’re lifting, you use only what’s stored in your muscles but if you workout for an hour, you’ll need those B vitamins to convert glycogen into energy. If you finish with some cardiovascular exercise, the B vitamins will help.

One of the best examples of how XS can help with energy comes from one of my dance instructors--my wife and I take ballroom dance lessons. One afternoon, I took in a variety of XS Energy Drinks for the instructors to try, and Special K, as we call him, had a couple of XS. When my wife and I came back to practice before a group class a little later, Special K had decided he wanted to dance. He’s an excellent dancer--for you Arthur Murray fans, he and his wife won a recent U.S. National Professional Rising Star Smooth Championship. Well, over the next 45 minutes, he wore out two of the female instructors, and he was still ready to keep dancing; we were just glad we didn’t have a lesson with him that day! That illustrates an important point. It takes some time for the B vitamins to be absorbed. The best way to use XS Energy drinks for working out is to plan ahead: drinking XS one or two hours before you exercise will help you have the energy you need when you need it.

I get asked more questions about artificial sweeteners than just about anything ...
I get asked more questions about artificial sweeteners than just about anything else. At the top of the list is sucralose. Why? Because sucralose is the object of several websites dedicated to providing the “truth” on this artificial sweetener, which seems to involve harmful effects and conspiracies. Yet, there’s no evidence of harmful effects in the scientific literature and the conspiracies haven’t been proven. So instead of trying to prove that the gurus are wrong, let me present them with a couple of facts to ponder.
The basis for the alleged harmful effects revolves around the fact that sucralose is a chlorinated sugar molecule. Why don’t the critics fund a study that examines tissue, blood, and saliva to test whether regular sucralose use will increase physiological amounts of chlorine in humans and to see if there are any negative health effects? They continually nit-pick every one of the 144 studies on sucralose, extracting only the bits of data that they claim prove their point. If just once they would put their money where their mouths are, it would bring them some degree of credibility. They certainly have no problem selling documentaries and books that “expose” artificial sweeteners. C’mon, guys--spend a little to prove your point.
And let’s ditch the conspiracy theory already. Given our desire to know the dirt on just about everything, if a conspiracy existed, it would have been proven by now--people in government just can’t keep quiet about anything. On top of that, it would have to be an international conspiracy involving the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and their counterparts in countries world-wide, and every organization that provides recommendations for nutrients that are safe for diabetics. Put two healthcare professionals in a room and they won’t agree on the color of the marker to use on the whiteboard, yet we’re to believe everyone involved is withholding the truth on sucralose? In what world does that make sense?
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that has met the scientific criteria for food safety many times over (1). While some people may have an allergic reaction to it, just like they might have to any natural food, most people will be able to use it as part of a reasonable diet. It can help reduce our dependence on sugar in soft drinks and processed foods. Given the obesity and diabetes epidemic we face, it’s one of many tools that we can use to help control our body weight while satisfying our sweet tooth.

Sugary drinks have long been linked to the increase in childhood obesity. In a s ...
Sugary drinks have long been linked to the increase in childhood obesity. In a study published in late September 2010, researchers in Texas reported the results of a questionnaire administered to 8th and 11th graders that examined eating, drinking, and exercise habits.

Researchers reported that while sugary sodas are often thought to be the culprit, sugar-laden sports drinks actually comprise just as significant a source of sugar, especially for teenage boys. They reported that 57% of all boys and 46% of all girls drank two or more 12-ounce servings of sugar-laden drinks every day--that’s a whopping 240 to 320 calories from sugar.

Even more of a concern was that 35% of all boys and 22% of all girls drank three or more servings of these sugary drinks per day. The researchers stated that unless teens are exercising more than 90 minutes per day, the use of these sugary drinks is not necessary. And the increased sugar intake also seemed to be related to other poor health behaviors; as the number of sugary drinks increased, unhealthy food choices such as fried foods and desserts increased for both boys and girls.

Research shows that teens are more likely to choose flavored drinks rather than plain water. Providing teenagers with sugar-free drinks is a healthier alternative so they can quench their thirst without increasing their sugar intake.

Reference: Pediatrics 2010;125:e754-e761.

XS Peach Tea has many beneficial phytonutrients and is good for your body in m ...

XS Peach Tea has many beneficial phytonutrients and is good for your body in many ways. One of the components called epigallocatechin (EGCG) has been examined for its role in weight management. There are numerous studies on the use of EGCG and caffeine in losing weight. Many show a benefit while others don’t.

So what’s the real story?

A study published in 2005 gives a good indication of the answer (1). In that study, researchers put people on a very-low-calorie diet (which should be done only under a doctor’s supervision) for four weeks. Then they designed a diet to maintain the subjects’ new weight levels and gave them a supplement with 270 mg EGCG plus 150 mg caffeine daily during a three-month follow-up period.

They divided the subjects into two groups: high caffeine users and low caffeine users. The people who typically had a higher caffeine intake lost more weight during the weight-loss phase than the low caffeine users. However, during the maintenance phase, the high caffeine consumers did not lose any additional weight while the low caffeine users did. So what does this mean to you?

EGCG and caffeine have a positive effect on metabolism; they increase metabolic rate and fat utilization. When people eat less, it allows them to lose more weight while using EGCG and caffeine whether they are typically high or low consumers of caffeine.

The message? You still have to eat less in order to lose weight, and reducing your caloric intake by 240 to 500 calories per day is what’s recommended. But EGCG and caffeine have a positive impact on your metabolism and feeling of fullness so it’s easier to lose weight. Once you get to a maintenance phase, people who typically don’t use much caffeine will still get a benefit from the blend of nutrients. It’s not known how long it will last, but it’s a real advantage because it appears to keep your metabolism higher.

What I think we’ll eventually find is that the benefits are related to whether people are fast or slow metabolizers of caffeine. We’re not there yet, so we go with what we know.

Weight management is simple: eat less, move more. Simple, but not easy. The research indicates EGCG and caffeine can help your efforts. Drinking two or three Peach Tea XS every day may just give you the edge you need to reach your weight goal and stay there.


1. Obes Res. 2005 Jul;13(7):1195-204.

XS, Weight Loss, & Catechins Research Update Chet Zelasko, PhD XS Nutriti ...
XS, Weight Loss, & Catechins
Research Update
Chet Zelasko, PhD
XS Nutrition Expert
Green tea extracts are thought to help with weight loss. A recent clinical trial supports that theory. Here’s what the researchers did. They recruited 132 overweight and obese subjects for a clinical trial. They divided the group in two. In the experimental group, they gave them a control beverage that just contained 39 mg of caffeine. In the experimental group, the gave them a beverage with the same amount of caffeine but an additional 625 mg of various catechins. The deal with this study was they asked all subjects to do two things: first, don’t change their diet and second, get 180 minutes of moderate intensity exercise like walking for 45 minutes 4 days a week. Didn’t matter how the combination worked out as long as they got 180 minutes a week,
They did an extensive amount of testing on the subjects to see if there were differences in weight loss—that’s the obvious—but also body fat, abdominal fat, subcutaneous fat (the fat that’s under the skin, you know, the old pinch an inch), and measures of serum lipids. They tested all subjects at baseline and again after 12 weeks.
I like the approach for this reason: they did not tell them to change their diet in any way, just to keep their intake constant. Often, when people volunteer for this type of study, they immediately change their diet but after a couple of weeks, they revert back to their old lifestyle. That’s good because then you only see the difference of the intervention, in this case, the beverages with and without tea catechins. The exercise is a constant in both groups.
There was a trend toward more weight loss in the catechin group but it was not statistically significant at the level the researchers set. While there was no change in overall fat mass between the two groups, the experimental group did see a decrease in abdominal fat, subcutaneous fat, and they also had decreased serum triglycerides. All in just 12 weeks.
What’s the message for us? First, catechins seem to have a positive effect on body fat and blood fat—that’s the serum triglycerides—when combined with regular exercise. It may be that catechins impact fat storage or increase metabolism or even make the exercise use more fat as a fuel. We don’t know because that hasn’t been determined yet. Second, if using catechins are going to be effective, they must be taken regularly. While the results of the study were only 12 weeks, using the catechins consistently for longer periods might increase the positive effects on weight loss and maybe even serum lipids.
Peach Tea Blast XS Energy drinks provide 90 mg of EGCG per can. The question is would that be enough? Yes because EGCG makes up about one-third of a typical catechin blend. Research has shown EGCG to be the active component of catechins. Taking 2 cans every day may help with your weight loss efforts. I mean really, can you find a tastier way of getting high amounts of EGCG. If you’re going to exercise anyway, you just might find that EGCG without any calories from sugar and with a good dose of B vitamin just might give you the edge you need to get rid of the fat you’ve wanted to lose.
Reference: J Nutr. 2009 Feb;139(2):264-70.

Glutamine is an important amino acid that is involved in more metabolic proces ...

Glutamine is an important amino acid that is involved in more metabolic processes than any other amino acid (1). It is converted to glucose when more glucose is required by the body to be used for energy. The amino acid also plays a part in maintaining proper blood glucose levels and the right pH range. Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in human muscle and plasma. It is utilized at high rates by rapidly dividing cells, including leucocytes (white blood cells), to provide energy and optimal conditions for cell division and is considered to be essential for proper immune function.

Glutamine has a role to play in the inflammation process. Research has shown that it’s beneficial when given by intravenous or intramuscular injection to burn and severely injured accident victims (2); it helps decrease muscle wasting and boosts immune function. But that’s a clinical use and applies only to those situations.

Of most importance to those of us who are physically active is whether glutamine will help us during recovery. Based on the research, glutamine is effective before and after exercise to help with recovery.

When you exercise, you cause muscle damage and that results in inflammation. Research on glutamine has demonstrated that it can help reduce toxic by-products of exercise, thereby allowing the cells to continue to produce energy.

In two studies on soccer players testing the use of glutamine before exercise sessions that simulated game conditions, serum ammonia was decreased in those athletes who used glutamine (3,4). Where did the ammonia come from and why should you care? When muscle is damaged, as it would be during severe exercise, the amine part of the amino acid is converted to ammonia. Due to the noxious characteristics of ammonia in the body, the result can be fatigue. These studies demonstrated that serum ammonia is reduced, thus lessening the potential for damage and fatigue.

In catabolic states of injury and illness, glutamine becomes conditionally-essential (requiring intake from food or supplements). Glutamine has been studied extensively over the past 10–15 years and has been shown to be useful in treatment of serious illnesses, injury, trauma, burns, and treatment-related side-effects of cancer as well as in wound healing for postoperative patients.

Glutamine is also marketed as a supplement used for muscle growth in weightlifting, bodybuilding, endurance, and other sports, Evidence indicates that glutamine when orally loaded may increase plasma hGH levels by stimulating the anterior pituitary gland.

In my research on glutamine, I found something interesting. In a study on young volunteers, researchers provided additional glutamine as a supplement together with a balanced meal (5). Researchers measured the metabolic rate of the subjects 30 minutes before and for up to six hours after the meal. In the first meal recovery phase (up to three hours after the meal), there was a 49% increase in caloric expenditure primarily due to carbohydrate metabolism. In the second phase (four to six hours after the meal), subjects burned an additional 42 calories compared to control trials. In this case, it was due to fat metabolism.

Maybe 50 to 100 calories per day doesn’t sound all that exciting, but 100 calories per day is 10 pounds a year. Whether this happens in everyone, young or old, thin or overweight, we don’t know yet. But besides the benefit to muscle after exercise, glutamine may have a role to play in weight management. I’ll keep an eye on the research. You keep checking back--and drink your XS.



2. J Nutr. 2008 Oct;138(10):2040S-2044S.

3. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Dec;32(6):1186-90.

4. Br J Sports Med. 2008 Apr;42(4):260-6.

5. J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2006 Mar-Apr;30(2):76-8

I've been getting the occasional question about taurine, a popular amino acid th ...
I’ve been getting the occasional question about taurine, a popular amino acid that’s found in XS Energy Drinks. Some people have read that taurine is not good for you, and you want to know why. I’ll tell you what taurine is and what I’ve found in the research I’ve done.

Taurine is one of three sulfur-containing amino acids; methionine and cysteine are the other two, and taurine can be produced from either. While taurine is found throughout the body, some organs have higher concentrations such as the brain and nervous system, the eye, and the heart. As a result, a lack of taurine may be related to mental fatigue. Taurine is important throughout our lifetime; newborns require taurine for normal growth and development, but they can’t make it until later in life, so taurine is supplied in breast milk and should be available in infant formula. The foods that contain taurine are primarily meat, fish and other seafood, eggs, and milk. As a result of the growing number of vegans and vegetarians and the fact that a lot of people eat less meat than in the past, many people may not be getting enough taurine from what they eat. 

I did a PubMed search which revealed over 400 articles cited as researching the benefits of taurine. Scientists have studied a wide variety of applications: memory enhancement, muscle fatigue, antioxidant attributes, and many others. But the primary reason that taurine seems to be helpful is that it benefits our brain and nervous system. The ability to think clearly and stay focused is dependent on many nutrients, and it seems that taurine is one of them.

But the primary question was about taurine safety, so I did an Internet search on side effects or toxicity associated with taurine supplementation. Toxicity resulted in over one million hits, and I checked out the first 100 websites. There was no toxicity associated with taurine supplementation, nor were there any side effects reported. When I searched PubMed on the uses of taurine in research, I didn’t find any negative effects associated with taurine use.

There’s no established upper limit for taurine. However, after reviewing the data on taurine, the Council for Responsible Nutrition has set 3 grams per day as the Observed Safe Level even though higher quantities have been used with no negative effects.  There is 1 gram of synthetic Taurine in XS Energy Drinks.

Based on the research, my opinion is that taurine is a very safe nutrient for healthy people to use. It may help with energy levels, improve performance during exercise, and have other benefits as well. The important thing is that there are no hazards for taurine use based on the current research.

What would you call something that prevents the growth of molds, bacteria, yeast ...
What would you call something that prevents the growth of molds, bacteria, yeast, and fungi?

Well, for starters, “a very good thing” might spring to mind.

Another term that fits this description is sodium benzoate, the sodium salt of benzoic acid that is found in XS Energy Drinks. 

Some foods produce benzoic acid themselves, but today, we want food products to be safe until consumed. And that can be days or even months. Our food supply is safe because the food industry uses these types of preservatives in manufactured foods such as jams, jellies, soda, juice, and many other foods and drinks. The FDA has approved sodium benzoate as a food additive that is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). The amounts added to foods and drinks are less than 0.1%, or less than one part per 1,000. The minuscule amount is not based on any potentially harmful impact, but because it’s very bitter flavor would negatively affect the food’s taste.

A little bit about sodium benzoate: Benzoic acid has good anti-microbial characteristics, but in its crystalline form doesn’t dissolve well in water. As a result, a salt is made by combining sodium with benzoic acid to make sodium benzoate.

When added to acidic foods such as juices, sodas, and pickles, it can dissolve back to benzoic acid to kill microbial agents. The reason benzoic acid so effectively destroys bacteria and other bugs is that it interferes with their ability to produce energy.

Remember this for later.

Science by headlines drives me a little batty, and it happened recently with sodium benzoate. The headline read, “Sodium Benzoate Can Cause Brain Disorders.” Here’s some of the text:

“Research from a British university suggests a common preservative (sodium benzoate) found in soft drinks has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA. That can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's (1).”

This statement has been passed along on one Internet blog after another as evidence that preservatives are bad. Really? Consider these facts. Benzoic acid inhibits microbes from producing energy at the mitochondrial level--that’s how it prevents their reproduction. The expert cited does all of his research on yeast and has published over 100 articles on the varying effects of substances on yeast. So it’s true, that when exposed to sodium benzoate, the yeast in his laboratory can’t produce energy and they die. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen--because they’re yeast!

Humans are not yeast and don’t react like yeast. Otherwise everyone covered with a towel and set in a warm place would double in size.

The human body is a complex organism with many checks and balances. Any substance has to be digested, absorbed, carried through the bloodstream, allowed into cells, allowed into the mitochondria, and then maybe it will have some effect--maybe not.

There’s no evidence that sodium benzoate or its derivatives do anything like that. There are no human studies to suggest that this preservative will cause any disease. Yet this headline continues from one blog to another without anyone checking its validity or even thinking it through all the way.

Here’s another headline: “Sodium Benzoate Causes Hyperactivity.”

The text read, “A combination of artificial colorants and sodium benzoate in beverages and processed foods can cause hyperactivity or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in young children.”

If you are anti-preservative, this gives you gallons of fuel for your fire. The headline is the result of a study published a couple of years ago, but it still has legs (2).

The research protocols were well designed; the researchers took into consideration that some children might have allergies to preservatives and food colorings and that some might already be hyperactive. The children were given a placebo or one of two drinks that both contained sodium benzoate and two levels of food colorings. The published results showed an increase in markers of hyperactivity assessed by both parents and behavioral professionals.

But here’s the problem: Parents and behavioral professionals were asked to observe changes in markers such as attention, focus, wriggling, and a number of other behaviors. The differences in behavior were very subtle--as low as a tenth of a point on a four-point scale.

One more thing: the average age of the children was 3.6 years old. Wriggling? In 3-year-olds? What a surprise! Note that they didn’t start with completely docile children or even average children; these kids were selected specifically because they had food allergies and were considered to be hyperactive.

Another problem was that sodium benzoate was combined with other food additives such as food coloring. This is surprising because one of the basic principles of research is to test one variable at a time. Whether the sodium benzoate alone would have an impact is unknown because it wasn’t tested, and we all remember when food coloring was the big bogeyman.

A better comparison would have been to use a completely randomized group of children, with hyperactivity and without, and with food allergies and without, and test the preservative and food colorings individually.

If we want a safe food supply, substances that cause illness have to be eliminated. Preservatives such as sodium benzoate have been used safely for many years, and there’s nothing in any of these studies that suggests that sodium benzoate consumed in reasonable amounts is harmful. But that doesn’t mean that some people, adults or children, won’t be allergic to sodium benzoate. That’s a possibility, due probably to some unknown genetic factors.

Here’s a reasonable approach: eliminate all sodium benzoate for two weeks and see how you feel or how your child’s behavior changes--that’s the only way you’ll really know how any preservative affects you or your kids. But don’t let your life be dictated by scary science headlines that are often misleading and Internet blogs that don’t come close to telling the whole story.



1. Martin Hickman. May 2007.

2. McCann D, et al. Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2007 Sep 5; [Epub ahead of print].

3. Hutchinson E, et al. The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children. Arch Dis Child. 2004;89(6):506-11.

Fascinating study done in India: researchers put college-age students on an eigh ...

Fascinating study done in India: researchers put college-age students on an eight-week supplementation program including one sub-group who were given an ashwagandha extract. Before the supplementation program, subjects were tested for sprint time (maximum velocity), vertical jump (power), aerobic fitness (max VO2), balance, and blood pressure. The subjects did not participate in any special training program; they just took the supplements for eight weeks. After eight weeks, they were retested in all areas.

The results were very interesting. Sprint time, vertical jump, and aerobic fitness all increased in the group taking the ashwagandha supplement while there was no effect on balance. Also important was that there was no negative effect on blood pressure.

There are a couple of important points. First, the subjects used the supplements regularly. That means if you’re going to use ashwagandha to improve physical parameters, you have to be consistent. Hit or miss won’t cut it—just like hit or miss won’t cut it in your training. While that wasn’t tested in this group, there’s every reason to believe that the effects would have been greater if the subjects participated in a training program.

Second, the researchers’ primary objective was to see if regular use of ashwagandha might be beneficial to people with fatigue or other energy-sapping conditions. The results from this study suggest that it might work. I’ll keep my eye on the research, but for now, you have a good reason to drink XS Gold—every day.

Reference: Int J Ayurveda Res 2010: 1(3):144-149.

A rise in carbonation intake was thought to be related to the decline in bone mi ...
A rise in carbonation intake was thought to be related to the decline in bone mineral content in young women. The phosphates found in many carbonated beverages caused a reduction in calcium and therefore, contributed to bone loss. Or so the reasoning went. 


In fact, when I was a college professor, I used to teach that in my health classes. But what seems to make sense on the surface doesn’t always hold up under closer examination.


For over 20 years, researchers have studied carbonation’s role in bone health. They examined high intake of carbonated beverages in a group of women and found no differences in serum or urinary markers of calcium metabolism (1).


In a study on adult women, urinary calcium was increased after drinking carbonated beverages as well as milk. However, the calcium immediately lost in urine is compensated for later with a decreased excretion of calcium, leading researchers to conclude that there is no effect on long-term calcium balance (2).


Now here is the chief concern: the displacement of calcium from milk with carbonated beverages. As far back as 1994, researchers found an increase in teenage girls who consumed carbonated beverages instead of other drinks that contain calcium like milk (3).  They concluded that it was the reduction in calcium intake, not the carbonation, that was problematic. 


In a recent study, researchers discovered that over a five-year period beginning at the start of high school, boys and girls reduced their calcium intake by over 150 mg per day (4). The research tends to indicate that it’s not what young adults are eating or drinking that’s the problem. It’s what they’re not eating or drinking during the transition from teenager to young adult. 


Let me throw one more thing in the mix. Physical activity has also declined in the past 20 years. In order to be healthy, bone must be stressed with regular weight-bearing exercise. In research on humans in the midst of complete bed rest, calcium excretion increases. Over time, that can contribute to decreased bone mineral content.


Carbonated beverages can certainly be a part of your diet. Just make sure you get enough calcium from the foods you eat like yogurt and perhaps a dietary supplement. And make sure you get plenty of exercise. Your bones will love you for it.



1. Arch Intern Med. 1989 Nov;149(11):2517-9.

2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Sep;74(3):343-7.

3. J Adolesc Health. 1994 May;15(3):210-5.

4. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009 Jul-Aug;41(4):254-60.