Prime Drinks: Are they Safe for Your Children?

Mar 27, 2023

Unless you've been living under a rock, you're likely to have heard about the new hydration and energy drinks to hit the market called Prime. For anyone interested in marketing, Prime is a case study I feel will be discussed in marketing masterclasses for years to come.

As a dietitian and father of four (3 of whom are boys), I heard about Prime some months ago. So well was it marketed to kids that our boys wanted us to import it from the USA back in October. I'm no marketing expert, but whatever Prime's strategy is, it works. Marketing to kids via YouTube (the medium our boys are not meant to be watching), is so effective that the desire to buy becomes an avalanche. I'm sure most parents can sympathise with surrendering to the "can we get" onslaught delivered by their kids when it comes to well-marketed products.

So what are Prime Energy and Prime Hydration, and does the hype match the product? The short answer is no, but I will explain further. I'll also discuss if these drinks are safe for children, who in our experience seem to be the primary target market.

Prime Hydration and Prime Energy are two popular drinks in the market that claim to provide the necessary hydration and energy boost to consumers. While many people consume these drinks without any issues, there has been some debate about the safety of these beverages. This article will delve into the ingredients of these drinks and explore the potential risks and benefits associated with them.

Firstly, let's talk about the ingredients of Prime Hydration and Prime Energy. Despite the claim that these drinks are 'Naturally Flavoured', both these drinks contain sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium, which are certainly not 'Natural.' Sucralose is made by chlorinating sugar molecules, while acesulfame potassium is made by combining acetoacetic acid with potassium. This does not mean that they are bad for you, as both these sweeteners are considered safe for consumption in moderation.

Sucralose is a zero-calorie sweetener that is around 600 times sweeter than sugar. It is widely used in various food and beverage products because of its stability and resistance to heat. Acesulfame potassium, on the other hand, is around 200 times sweeter than sugar and is often used in combination with other sweeteners to enhance their flavour.

While these sweeteners are deemed safe for consumption by regulatory bodies, some studies have raised concerns about their potential health risks. For example, rodent studies have demonstrated increased liver inflammation and altered gut microflora as a result of sucralose consumption. However, we are not rodents, we are humans, and a critical review of the extensive database of research demonstrates that sucralose is safe for its intended use as a non-caloric sugar alternative.

After we caved and purchased the kids their first bottle of Prime Hydration, we then decided to look at the label. Printed on the side is a warning about the product not being safe for children under 15 years of age (yes I know, dietitian and parent of the year). After looking at the ingredients though, I could not see anything that stood as a potential health risk for kids other than the 'potential risk' from the sweeteners mentioned above. Yes these products could be replacing better alternatives like water or milk, and the risk of them wasting money was evident, but from an immediate health risk, there was little I was concerned about.

I then decided to look into Prime's other product, Prime Energy. This product is of concern if marketed towards kids due to its high caffeine content. Prime Energy contains 200mg of caffeine per serving (equivalent to a decent double-shot espresso). This amount of caffeine is not safe for children and can cause adverse effects in some adults. Caffeine works by blocking the action of a neurotransmitter called adenosine that builds up in the brain the longer we are awake. Adenosine makes us feel tired and sleepy. Sleep is critical as it helps us to recover and grow. If we are blocking the action of adenosine, we are then limiting the depth and quality of our sleep. For kids, this is a major concern.

The half-life of caffeine, which refers to the amount of time it takes to eliminate half of the caffeine from the body, can range from 6 to 14 hours, depending on various factors such as age, sex, and liver function. This means that if you consume a cup of coffee that contains 200mg of caffeine, you will still have 100mg of caffeine in your system after 6-14 hours. It can take as long as 24-48 hours for the remaining half to fully leave your body.

Consuming TOO much caffeine can lead to adverse effects such as insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, and increased blood pressure. It can also interfere with the absorption of certain minerals such as calcium and iron, leading to deficiencies in these nutrients. For adults, it's thought that 400mg per day is safe. Be mindful though, this will be way too much for some individuals and not enough for others. The effects can vary from person to person. For kids though, there is no safe level.

One of Prime Hydration's key claims is that it contains no added sugar. It does contain some natural sugar which is likely from the coconut water, but the amount is only small.

Prime Energy has zero sugar and promotes this as a major benefit. For me, if I needed energy though, I would want actual energy. You see as humans, we only consume energy via carbohydrates, fats and protein (alcohol does also, but we'll leave that out for the moment). Prime Energy contains only 25 calories per serving, which is not enough to provide any significant energy boost. The way Prime Energy provides energy is through the burst of caffeine supplied in the drink. Using caffeine to provide energy, is like getting your car towed when you run out of fuel. It might move your car, but it does not address the underlying problem of low fuel levels. Similarly, Prime Energy may give you a temporary energy boost, but it does not provide the necessary nutrients required for sustained energy production.

Don't get me wrong, I know there is a huge market for energy drinks like this; they provide a short burst of energy, without excess calories, and the potential risk of unwanted weight gain. But it may be cheaper to just have a cup of coffee. To add to this claim, these drinks are targeted at athletes, particularly MMA fighters. These guys need real energy to perform at their best. Sure caffeine can play an important role in sports, but without real calories to support it, performance will be affected.

In conclusion, while Prime Hydration and Prime Energy may provide a quick fix to dehydration and fatigue, they are not without their potential risks. Consumers should be aware of the ingredients and caffeine content of these drinks and exercise moderation when consuming them. It is always advisable to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating any new dietary supplement or drink into your routine.

So will we be adding Prime drinks to MEALZEE for people to build into their meal plan or nutrition guide? Not at this stage. We aim to keep commercial products out of the MEALZEE community recipes as much as we can. As a user though, there is a way you can add drinks like this to your local account. If you'd like to know more, please contact us to find out.

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