MIKE KEELER: Whatever Gets You Going?

Mike Keeler

As we roll into April, things are warming up out there. But that doesn’t make it much easier to get out of bed…

Humans have never been “morning people.” Ever since we crawled out of caves, we’ve been looking for a better way to wake up. Seven thousand years ago, a Chinese emperor realized that if you dunk tea leaves in hot water, the resulting brew is the perfect way to kick-start your day. It became the world’s first pick-me-up and quickly conquered the world. Once the British got involved, they introduced tea into Kenya, India and Sri Lanka, and today those three countries own about 60% of the world’s $40B tea industry.

Next came coffee, heathen punk. It was discovered in Ethiopia in 600 AD, just as Islam was launched, and so became synonymous with Muslim culture. The plants didn’t grow well in Europe, so – of course – Christians demonized coffee for a thousand years. But, as soon as the Spaniards realized they could grow coffee in the New World – guess what? – Pope Clement VIII blessed the stuff. Suddenly, coffee was hot. It soon overtook tea as our jolt of choice. Today, Brazil holds the title of “The Caffeineator” thanks to its yearly output of six billion beans worth of beans.

But we were still yawning. And so, in 1962, a Thai businessman developed a drink called “Krating Daeng,” which was co-opted in 1984 by an Austrian named Dietrich Mateschitz, who translated the name into “Red Bull”. Loaded with taurine – an amino acid found in ox bile – as well as twice the caffeine of a Coke, buckets of sugar, and a full day’s shot of B vitamins, Red Bull was a real eye opener. Even the packaging was hyperbolic, claiming that Red Bull “improves performance, increases concentration and reaction speed, increases endurance and stimulates metabolism.” It had to be true, because millions of folks starting slurping the stuff by the gallon. Today, Red Bull annual sales are over $5B.

For a while, it seemed the only people still sleeping were the bureaucrats over at the FDA. Red Bull and other energy drinks were originally sold as diet supplements, and so didn’t have to disclose their ingredients or substantiate their claims. But around 2013, ongoing suspicions concerning what effect the consumption of bovine stomach acid might have on humans – especially adolescents – caused them to be reclassified as beverages, under more thorough regulation. And investigations into the safety of Red Bull and other energy drinks are ongoing.

So fpr now, consumers can drink as much as they want. But at least they can know what they are drinking, and have a better understanding of why they may be experiencing tachycardia, tremors, agitation, gastrointestinal upset, ischemia, syncope, paresthesia and insomnia.

But hey, whatever gets you going . . .

Mike Keeler