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

Food Colorings maximum levels are going to change

Commission Regulation (EU) 232/2012 (link) establishes new maximum levels for some food colorings, amending the Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008. These changes will involve the following dyes: Quinoline Yellow (E 104), Sunset Yellow FCF/ Orange Yellow S (E 110) and Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A (E 124). The  Regulation will apply from 1 June 2013, but food containing these 3 colorings that have been lawfully placed on the market before 1 June 2013 but that do not comply with the provisions of this Regulation, may continue to be marketed until stocks are exhausted.

The reductions in maximum levels mirror the reduced Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels set by EFSA.. and are quite significant.

Several food products are affected. Regarding food supplements the new maximum levels are listed below:

FS supplied in a solid form

E104 from 300 mg/kg to 35 mg/kg
E110 from 300 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg
E124 from 300 mg/kg to 35 mg/kg

FS supplied in a liquid form

E104 from 100 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg
E110 from 100 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg
E124 from 100 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg

FS supplied in a syrup-type or chewable form

Maximum level for all of them is 10 mg/kg (previously not established).

Food businesses should be aware of the changes, and ensure their suppliers are also reformulating in line with the new specifications. It should be noted that in the United States the maximum levels for E110 are not affected (it can be used according to GMPs); E104 and E124 are not permitted in the United States.
– Sport Nutrition Team –


European Commission and Member States on food supplement classification, labeling of wine and health claims

‘On 1 February 2012 the EC Standing Commettee on the food chain and animal health met in order to discuss many topics related to the general food law. Below a feedback of main discussions, with Hylo’s point of view.

Status of the products placed on the market as food supplement/dietetic food for special medical purposes

Member States and EC have recently debated whether the same product can be classified and sold as a food supplement and as food for special medical purposes simultaneously by two entities. EC said yes in theory, no in practice, and pointed out that art. 14 of Dir. 2009/39 cannot apply to food supplements (and quite confusingly mutual recognition would not apply).

In Hylo’s view, the borders between the two pieces of legislation are so blurred, especially with the vast discretion Member States exercise in this area, and the national pieces of legislation that they have put together (including Spain), that this will continue to be uncertain. Some Member States have a strong preference for dietetic foods, some others prefer food supplements; and several Member States have consistently refused to accept the interpretation of other Member States (it is unclear if the EC was supporting this attitude with the remark on mutual recognition).

This is unlikely to change as long as dietetic foods exist, or a single process is established. Confusion will continue to persist.

Spermidine and related health claim

The spermidine and prolongation of the growing phase (anagen) of the hair cycle health claim proposed by the Italian pharma company Giuliani Spa (also known for the GABA novel food application) continues to be mired in controversy. EFSA had opined in December 2011 that since the population studied for the claim (and likely beneficiaries) has a pathological condition. So the claim would be medicinal, and not allowed within Reg. 1924/2006.

The EC has commented, and we @Hylo will follow with interest to see how it goes (not well but it’s still uncertain). Whether EFSA is coherent on this matter, given hypercholestoremia is also a disease, it’s another matter that deserves in-depth analysis.

Sugar beet fibre and related health claim

Member States and the EC seem to have agreed to soften EFSA’s wording on sugar beet fibre and increasing faecal bulk. EFSA proposed “Sugar beet fibre increases faecal bulk”, EC and MS decided to say “sugar beet fibre contributes to an increase in faecal bulk”.

We Hylobates observe that it is not unexpected that the direct, simpler style of health claims in the English-speaking world would be rejected at the EU-level where broadly fuzzier claims are favored by regulators. Moreover, this decision signals the intention of regulators to intervene in the wording of claims much more aggresively than could be anticipated. It is not entirely clear that consumers would perceive the two wordings in different ways.

Status of allergens in wine

After the rejection  of scientific studies on allergens in wine presented in order to avoid the application of allergen labeling requirements, there has been much speculation on what would happen. Member States and the EC could not agree on a solution that would make everyone happy. However, the EC indicated that a decision should come soon – and that it should be pragmatic.

Selling of foods beyond maximum durability

Last but not least, Member States discussed the selling of foods beyond maximum durability at the 1st February meeting. Most said it’s possible but it’s also a complex issue. Our view: each Member State will go its own way.

– Sport Nutrition Team –

Food additives: EC adopts a new Regulation

The European Commission has  adopted a new Regulation, implementing Regulation EC 1333/2008. The new Regulation includes list of food additives intended for foodstuffs and food ingredients. The lists will replace lists under  Directives 95/2/CE, 94/36/CE and 94/35/CE in 2013.

The Regulation also foresees that anti-caking agent silicon dioxide can be used for salt substitutes at higher levels and that the coating agent basic metacrilate can be used for food supplements. These specific rules will come into force 20 days after the publication of the present regulation, on December 2 2012; the general list apply on 1 June 2013. Products legally marketed before 1 June 2013 can continue to be sold.

It is interesting to note that the list is divided into categories for different foodstuffs. The category for food supplements is number 17 (solid form such as capsules and tablets, liquid form, syrup or chewable). It is noteworthy that category 13 is food with particular nutritional purposes; foods for sportsmen are not included, further confirmation of the upcoming abolition of this category (if not abolished, theoretically from June 1  2013, no additives would be allowed in foods for sportsmen, as well as in other dietetic foods for which specific rules have not been set).

Armando Antonelli- Sport Nutrition Team

Stevia rebaudiana’s steviol glycosides: approved on 12 November by EC

After a long wait we can finally announce that Stevia rebaudiana and its steviol glycosides are approved in European Countries.

This regulation permitting the sale and the use of this natural sweetener was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 12 November The legislation will enter into force on December 2, allowing formulations and sale of products with steviol glycosides.

The upper level permitted in food supplements will be 670 mg/Kg (solid form), 200 mg/l (liquid form) and 1800 mg/Kg (syrup-type or chewable form). The first rollout of this kind of products in shops will be from the first quarter of 2012, but some may be faster.

We think that the approval of Stevia is a very important for food in general, but concerning  food supplements and food for sportsmen, it is a real milestone. Just think the use of sweeteners in these products, and the increased sweetening power than sugar and consequent reduction of calories up to 50-100%.

We also think that countries where naturalness is particularly appreciated will be particularly receptive, as a natural alternative to aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K becomes available.

Jacopo Angelucci – Sport Nutrition Team

The effects of low and high glycaemic carbohydrates on endurance performance

The concept of glycaemic index (GI) was originally introduced to classify carbohydrate-rich foods, usually having an energy content of >80 % from carbohydrates, according to the differences in effects on post-meal glycaemia. The GI, which is a nutritional property of a carbohydrate-rich food, is defined as the incremental area under the blood glucose response curve following a 50 g glycaemic carbohydrate portion of a test food expressed as a percent of the response to the same amount of carbohydrates from a standard reference product taken by the same subject (FAO/WHO, 1998).

Carbohydrate-rich foods can be classified according to their GI values (glucose as the standard): high GI >70 (white bread, most white rices, corn flakes, extruded breakfast cereals, glucose); normal GI 55-70 (whole wheat products, basmati rice, sweet potato, sucrose); low GI 40-55 (most fruits and vegetables, legumes/pulses, whole grains, nuts, fructose) and very low <40.

On the other hand, is not easy to outline glycaemic index of foods rich in carbohydrates because many other factors in the diet (e.g. amount and type of dietary fibre, amount of dietary fat, energy density, physical properties, mode of preparation) are involved.

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) expressed its negative opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to carbohydrates that induce low/reduced glycaemic responses and carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index. The claims effect was related to carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI) and Impact on blood glucose / Glycaemic control / Glycaemic response or to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The main cause of rejection of these claims was that the food constituents, carbohydrates that induce a low/reduced glycaemic response and carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (e.g. <55), which are the subject of the health claims are not sufficiently characterised. On the other hand, there are also positive opinions concerning natural and artificial sugar replacers such as xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, isomalt and sucralose for which EFSA approved the claims related to consumption of these substances and reduction of post-prandial glycaemic responses, furthermore the same opinions have been given for slowly digestible starch in starch-containing foods, beta-glucans from oats and barley and others.

Concerning this topic a recent human trial study has highlighted effects relevant to sportsmen. The study involved 10 well trained cyclists to investigate the effects of high and low glycaemic index (GI) 24 h recovery meals on the physiological responses and subsequent athletic performance, following a glycogen depleting protocol.

On day 1, subjects performed a glycogen depleting protocol after which they then consumed either high or low GI recovery diets over the next 24 h, which provided 8 g.kg BWˉ¹ of carbohydrate. On day 2, the subjects returned to the laboratory, 2-3 h postprandial, to perform a 40 km time trial (TT) on the Velotron cyclePro© ergometer. The results showed no significant differences between the two groups of subjects with respect to both physiological parameters (carbohydrate, fat oxidation and blood glucose concentration) and related to endurance performance.

The study suggests that type of carbohydrate intake (low GI or high GI carbohydrate) does not affect performance. This calls into question some long-standing formulation principles, and requires further research. The available evidence strongly supports carbohydrate intake in the context of sports; the final word on the use of low GI carbohydrates over high GI carbohydrates had not been said, and high GI carbohydrates still have a place.

Jacopo Angelucci – Sport nutrition Team

Leucine plays a key-role in protein synthesis during moderate steady state exercises

Leucine is one of the essential amino acids (EAA) and belongs to the group of BCAAs (branched chained amino acids), the only ones (together with Isoleucine and Valine) that are not degraded in the liver. BCAAs are found mainly in the skeletal muscle and offer an important contribution to the muscle building. Studies suggest that leucine offers the greatest contribution to the energy production at muscular level, slowing the degradation of the tissue by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. In fact, through the insulin-pathway signaling, leucine seems able to trigger muscle anabolic process.

Nevertheless, EFSA‘s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) published a scientific opinion regarding BCAAs, providing a negative opinion related to the proposed claims, such as ‘Growth or maintenance of muscle mass’, ‘Faster recovery from muscle fatigue after exercise’ and ‘Reduction in perceived exertion during exercise’, noting that there was no proof of benefit over that of all aminoacids as protein building blocks. Some countries, however, are still allowing claims to be made on leucine and BCAAs.

A recent study was performed in the US to evaluate how supplementation with essential amino acids containing two different amounts of leucine can influence post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. Eight adults drank two amino acid based beverage containing respectively 1.87 g and 3.5 g of leucine during their physical exercises. Muscle protein synthesis was determined by using two stable carbon and hydrogen isotopes as marker. Results showed that muscle protein synthesis was 33 % greater (P < 0.05, then statistically significant) after drinking the leucine-enriched beverage, than after consumption of non-enriched one. This trial suggests that ‘increasing the concentration of leucine in an EAA supplement consumed during steady state exercise elicits a greater MPS response during recovery’. It should be noted however that EFSA has indicated that the markers used are not adequate, as positive effects on muscle mass should be proved via actual measurements of mass, not through markers of degradation or synthesis.

The study supports higher ratios of leucine in BCAA supplements, or increasing the leucine content of supplements and other foods for sportsmen.

Given EFSA’s negative opinion, claims on the effect of BCAAs on muscle protein synthesis (which EFSA said is not a benfit per se) rest on shaky ground. It’s just possible, and only for now, to claim BCAAs effects allowed at national level (e.g. for Italy: ‘trophism and muscle recovery’); this must be checked country by country.

Armando Antonelli – Sport Nutrition Team

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