Caffeine and sport: recent studies

New interesting evidence related to the involvement of caffeine in sport performance has been published during the last month.

The first of these studies suggests that 6 mg/kg BW caffeine supplementation improves by ~2% rowing (2000 m effort)
performance; combination with sodium bicarbonate seems to prevent performance enhancement, due tu GI side effects.
Further investigation to minimize GI symptoms is required. Health claims on caffeine have received favorable opinions by EFSA but have caused concerns with Member States.
The second one reports that adding 8 mg/kg BM caffeine to postexercise carbohydrate (CHO) feedings seems to improve subsequent high-intensity interval-running capacity compared with CHO alone. This effect may be related to higher rates of postexercise muscle glycogen resynthesis previously observed under similar feeding conditions. In line with EFSA health claim assessment (still controversial with Member States) it may be interesting to suggest on label to take
caffeine supplements after the intake of CHO, or with CHO. Nevertheless the recommended dosage in the study seems to be too high (560 mg/day for a 70 kg person).

In both studies a potential concern seems to be related to the levels of caffeine used. For example EFSA, in its opinions, takes into
account lower levels of caffeine compared to those used in trials; Member States allow lower amounts of caffeine in food supplements (Belgium bans solid caffeine). In Italy, for example, no more than 300 mg/day caffeine are informally allowed.

These studies provide further support to the use of caffeine in sports under some circumstances, although levels may be an issue.


Armando Antonelli – Sport Nutrition Team

Art. 13 health claim list regulation will provide reassurances (and worries)

The first outcome of the discussion in Brussels on the 5th of December was that the Regulation with the “big list” under art. 13.1 (the claims which should have been based on generally accepted evidence) will clarify that only health claims on the list are allowed, all others being forbidden, with two exceptions.

The exceptions include “claims requiring further consideration by the risk managers before a decision on them can be taken; claims requiring a further assessment by EFSA; and claims on “botanical” substances; that have not received an assessment by EFSA following a request by the Commission”. Such claims will be listed on the EC website (botanicals, probiotics, caffeine, some odd claims on arginine, one claim on fructose and one claim on glycaemic carbohydrates, etc). Hopefully the text will be clear enough to avoid unwarranted enforcement (and the situation with caffeine is rapidly resolved).

The Committee also accepted that the claims of beta-glucans cannot be extended beyond EFSA opinion (to all beta-glucans); clarified the conditions for use on water-related health claims and on glucomannan; extended health claims valid for some weight loss products to all products complying with Directive 96/8/EC; and said no to a claim on fat and to one on sodium (as they are not beneficial).

On a related matter, providing a spark of hope, the Committee approved a new Regulation refusing market authorisation to some claims. This smaller Regulation will grant  more generous terms extending “the period granted to operators and national controlling authorities to adapt to the new requirements of the draft Regulation to all claims used in commercial communications and not only to those used on the label of products”. There is widespread concern that enacting terms have been too stringent for stakeholders so far, especially when the health claim had legally been on the market for some time. Hopefully, this reasoning will be applied more broadly in the future.

– Sports Nutrition Team –

EFSA: caffeine for sports ok, but not for weight loss

The 8 of April 2011 EFSA’s NDA Panel has published the outcome of the evaluations of a fourth series of ‘general function’ health claims proposed for use on food products.

Only few opinions are positive for sports nutrition. Among these 442 health claims, the most relevant are related to caffeine; in particular  health claims such as ‘Increased alertness’ , ‘ increased attention’, ‘increase in endurance performance’, ‘increase in endurance capacity’, ‘reduction in the rated perceived exertion/effort during exercise’ are now accepted for caffeine. Other positive outcomes are related to resistant maltodextrins ( ‘Changes in bowel function’), Choline (‘ Contribution to normal lipid metabolism ‘) and olive poliphenols  ( ‘Hydroxytyrosol protects LDL particles from oxidative damage’).

Instead most EFSA opinions are negative. It should be noted that all the health claims on ‘reduction of body weight’ related to caffeine and green tea have been rejected. Other negative outcomes are related to several aminoacids such as  L-Arginine, Lysine, Tryptophan and aminoacidic derivatives such as Taurine and Carnosine, particularly interesting are the rejected health claims concerning  ‘management of body mass’  and “improvement of endothelium-dependent vasodilation’ (Arginine),  ‘Contribution to normal protein synthesis’ (Lysine), ‘Maintenance of normal muscle function’ (Taurin). Also Quercetin, Lutein, Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA), FOS and PUFAs DHA/EPA (Omega 3) received general negative opinions from the Panel.

“The positive opinion on caffeine is important specifically for the benefits which EFSA has recognized within the domain of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, and the standard that it sets.” commented Luca Bucchini, managing director of Hylobates “Though EFSA’s opinions are important when thinking to new products, they should not be the only driving force. EFSA’s processs is welcome when compared to the less than transparent situation in several EU countries; at the same time, it should be noted that EFSA’s approach has been less than consistent between micronutrients and other substances. It is time for the sports nutrition industry to think carefully about the future.”

– Armand and Jacopo, Sport Nutrition Team –

EFSA: la caffeina per lo sport funziona, altre sostanze no

In data odierna il gruppo di esperti dell’EFSA ha pubblicato i risultati della valutazione di 442 claim sulla salute proposti per l’uso nei prodotti alimentari.

Solo poche opinioni possono essere considerate positive nel campo della nutrizione sportiva,  in particolare sono stati accettati claim relativi al consumo di caffeina e aumento dello stato di allerta/attenzione, diminuzione della percezione dello sforzo durante l’esercizio fisico ed aumento della capacità in esercizi fisici di resistenza. Gli esperti dell’EFSA hanno dato inoltre parere positivo per il claim relativo alle maltodestrine resistenti affermando che c’è una relazione di causa effetto tra il consumo di questi carboidrati e il miglioramento della funzionalità intestinale. Altri esiti positivi sono riscontrabili per claim relativi alla Colina (‘contribuisce al normale metabolismo lipidico’) e ai polifenoli dell’ulivo (‘Idrossitirosolo protegge le LDL dal danno ossidativo’).

Gran parte dei claim valutati sono stati respinti, tra cui i principali relativi al consumo di caffeina e tè verde che riguardano ‘mantenimento e controllo del peso corporeo’ non potranno più essere utilizzati per prodotti ed integratori alimentari, a meno che il processo a livello comunitario abbia un esito diverso e solo quando i pareri diventeranno legge, con lo specifico regolamento di attuazione. Nessun parere positivo per quel che riguarda i claim  sugli aminoacidi come arginina, lisina, triptofano e derivati aminoacidici quali taurina, carnosina: infatti i principali claim sulla massa muscolare, attività di tipo tonico e vasodilatazione sono stati bocciati.Numerosi altri claim sono stati valutati e bocciati, in particolare molti relativi a Quercetina, Luteina, Acido Alfa Linoleico (ALA), FOS e i PUPA DHA/EPA (Omega 3) generalmente per carenza di dati sufficienti.

“Non bisogna dimenticare che EFSA ha ampiamente riconosciuto i benefici di vitamina e minerali che sono i tipici principi degli integratori alimentari, anche per lo sport (come per vitamina C e sistema immunitario dello sportivo)” ha commentato Luca Bucchini, direttore gestionale di Hylobates “Per le altre sostanze ha usato uno standard di prova molto diverso e a volte discutibile, anche se riteniamo un processo trasparente e scientificamente qualificato come quello di EFSA sia importante e necessario. Il riconoscimento per la caffeina è importante ed univoco; sarà importante bilanciare l’effetto positivo dei pareri EFSA con la necessità di portare sul mercato prodotti equilibrati, indirizzando attentamente la ricerca. Su un piano più squisitamente tecnico è importante, che con l’opinione sulla caffeina, EFSA ha confermato la possibilità di claim sulla salute nel quadro del Regolamento 1924/2006 riferiti ad attività sportive”.

Le indicazioni fornite dal Ministero della Salute sul proprio sito, fino all’entrata in vigore di un regolamento applicativo (atteso per metà 2012), restano permesse.

– Armando e Jacopo, Sport Nutrition Team –

Aggiornato alle ore 18:03 dell’8/4 con riferimento al Ministero Salute

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