The rise of questionably safe ultra-caffeinated food products has triggered the FDA in recent months to examine whether it really makes sense to stick the stimulant in "non-traditional" products like energy drinks and gum.
ChromaDex, a company that makes and licenses intellectual property for nature-identical ingredients (that is, natural ingredients which are produced synthetically), is on a mission to make sure that caffeine addicts still get their fix, even if the FDA decides to launch a dramatic crackdown.
The company recently announced human clinical trial results for Purenergy, a caffeine-related ingredient that the company says delivers 30% more caffeine into the blood than traditional caffeine, is absorbed by the body at a 30% slower rate than regular caffeine (so it lasts longer), and cuts the half-life of caffeine by one quarter. Purenergy could, in other words, offer the same energy boost as traditional caffeine in significantly lower quantities, circumventing any future FDA caffeine limits for products.
For years, ChromaDex has been licensing IP for ingredients instead of developing them in-house. For instance, pTeroPure, a nature-identical version of trans-Pterostilbene—an ingredient found in blueberries that lowers blood pressure and has a calming effect—is found in up to 50 commercial products, including many dietary supplements.
But with Purenergy, Chromadex is getting into the market itself. The product is a caffeine and pTeroPure hybrid that—theoretically—nullifies caffeine's negative effects with the positive ones from pTeroPure. "pTeroPure is good for reducing blood pressure, and the negative side effects of caffeine are anxiety and hypertension related, so it cancels it out," claims ChromaDex CEO Frank Jaksch, Jr.
Supposedly co-crystallizing the two ingredients—bringing them together into one hydrogen-bonded whole—intensifies caffeine absorption and makes it last longer in the body. "The benefits of Purenergy come from the crystallization process," says Jaksch.
This kind of prolonged fix doesn't come cheap. Jaksch says that Purenergy will be a "premium-priced ingredient" compared to traditional caffeine. But if the FDA ever cracks down on caffeine, there may not be many options for energy product companies, except to find ways to do more with less caffeine. Non-caffeine alternatives that deliver a similar energy boost tend to be in a class of compounds called alkaloids (caffeine is an alkaloid; so is nicotine). But, says Jaksch, "The FDA stance is very clear: There's no chance in hell they're going to let a new alkaloid that's a stimulant onto the market unless someone brought in a huge battery of data."
ChromaDex is in the process of marketing Purenergy to companies now. Jaksch couldn't reveal any potential partnerships, but don't be surprised if Purenergy shows up in your Red Bull or Monster energy drink in the near future.