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‘Relaxation’ Foods and Beverages: Proceed with Caution

Environmental Nutrition Newsletter

Call-out Intro: After hours in a high-stress work environment such as the OR, it might be tempting to turn to a quick fix to de-stress, unwind and relax. But products marketed for relaxation aren’t always safe, and they aren’t always FDA-regulated. Here’s why you should avoid them.

Q. Do relaxation foods and drinks really work?

A. People turn to foods, beverages and supplements for health benefits, so why not turn to them for potential relaxation effects? That’s the thinking behind a booming field of products such as baked goods, such as brownies, and beverages, such as sodas and flavored waters, that claim to contain relaxation properties.

Relaxation drinks formulated with supplemental ingredients, such as Dream Water (produced by Dream Water) and iChill (iChill Beverages, Inc.) have doubled in sales in the past year, with 36 million gallons sold in the U.S. in 2010. But do they work?

Melatonin in the mix

One of the most popular supplements for relaxation and sleep is melatonin, a hormone we naturally produce in the pineal gland of the brain. It helps control the sleep and wake cycles of the body’s internal clock. Most commonly found in supplements, melatonin has recently been added to several food and beverage products marketed for relaxation effects, such as Lazy Cakes (Lazy Larry) and Kush Cakes (Vapor Rush.)

A relaxing ingredient list

In addition to melatonin, products such as Unwind (Koma,) Mini Chill (Stevenson Products,) and Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda (The Relaxing Company) contain a variety of supplements, such as valerian, GABA, L-Theanine and kava. These supplements are promoted for their anxiety relief and sleep aid.

While researchers have found some sleep and anti-anxiety effects for these supplements, the evidence is inconsistent. In a review of dietary supplements marketed for relaxation published in November 2009 in Medical Science Monitor, researchers reported that questions remain regarding the medicinal value of these supplements, although research supports their role in stress management.

Safety concerns

The hot issue for relaxation foods and beverages is their potential for safety risks. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clarify its regulatory status on relaxation products that include melatonin, emphasizing that current laws don’t require manufacturers to establish evidence of their products’ safety and effectiveness before going to market. Some products contain up to 8 milligrams (mg) of melatonin per serving, while most doses of melatonin supplements are 1-3 mg.

Many safety concerns have been raised over relaxation products. When supplements are mixed into a food or beverage, it’s much easier to lose sight of how much you’re consuming, or for them to fall into the hands of children. There’s a potential danger of falling asleep after consuming these products; melatonin can induce drowsiness for about six hours after use. And relaxation drinks—as with any dietary supplement—can potentially interact with other medications.

Product disclosures for many relaxation products warn that they’re not recommended for pregnant women or children or for use while operating machinery or automobiles. So, when it comes to relaxation foods and beverages, proceed with caution.

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC.







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