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Special Report: Cleaner Burst of Energy

LAWTON Okla_ Organic ingredients, all natural sources of caffeine, no artificial colors or flavors: believe it or not, we're talking energy drinks.

Despite government scrutiny over energy drink safety, sales of caffeine-fueled beverages continue to soar. Brands are marketing to consumers well beyond the cramming college student. They are reaching out to the health food crowd, and critics are concerned that it's sending the wrong message.

Artist Joseph Cavalieri was never big on using caffeine to help jumpstart his day.

"I never drank any traditional energy drinks," Joseph said.

Things changed when he spotted an energy drink at the health food store. 

"I liked the idea that it was totally organic," Joseph said.

It's a trend that has consumers like Joseph buzzing: drinks that promise a "cleaner" burst of energy. They tout things like organic ingredients and "all natural", sources of caffeine minus artificial colors and flavors. 

Industry analyst Gary Hemphill said brands are responding to a growing thirst for healthy refreshment.

"Consumers are savvy today," Hemphill said. "They read labels, and they know what the ingredients are in the products they ingest."

Hemphill said this new breed of drinks has opened up the energy category to a   whole new crowd.

"Up until now, the real core energy drink consumer has tended to be younger, teen males," Hemphill said. "When you talk about health, it tends to be a concern or interest of somewhat older consumers."

Consumers like 52-year-old Joseph, who now play a role in soaring energy drink   sales.

"They're tasty, and they sort of make you feel good," Joseph said, "Good on different levels."

"It's a very clever marketing strategy to advertise these drinks as clean, healthy alternatives," Hemphill said. "There's really no evidence to support that."

Dr. Steven Meredith, a behavioral pharmacologist, said even though the   caffeine comes from natural sources like guarana and green tea.

"Caffeine is caffeine, whether it's synthesized in a lab, or whether it's synthesized in nature," Meredith said.

It's still going to have the same pharmacological effects when you consume it," Meredith said.

In fact, many versions still pack a potent caffeine punch, putting them on the FDA's radar just like their traditional counterparts.

"There's really no scientific foundation that I'm aware of that suggests that when you consume one of these types of clean energy drinks, you should feel any differently than when you're consuming a traditional energy drink," Meredith said.

Still, industry experts don't expect sales to slow anytime soon. 

"The healthier energy drinks are likely to continue to grow, because people want healthier refreshment," Hemphill said.

Joseph will help fuel that market, but he is cautious when craving a boost.

"I'm really sensitive to caffeine, so often I'll just drink half of the can," Joseph said.

The FDA is currently conducting an open investigation into the safety of energy drinks and supplements and said it has no official time frame for when things will wrap up. Dr. Meredith said if you choose to have "clean" energy drinks, look for labels that clearly display the total amount of caffeine per serving. That way, you   can monitor your daily consumption. He said for most healthy adults, that should be between 300-400 milligrams per day.



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