Energy Products: Energy for Sale (cont.)

If you are considering the use of an herb or a supplement, it's best to first check with your doctor. Some plant compounds, no matter how natural, can interact with drugs and may have some adverse effects.

Asian ginseng, for example, can raise blood pressure in those that are prone to hypertension, says Weil. Plus, Haggans says a recent study suggests the herb may reduce the effect of Coumadin (a blood thinner) and other drugs. There are also observational reports that yerba mate, when used in large amounts or for prolonged periods, may cause cancer in the gastrointestinal tract.

Keep in mind, herbs are presumed to be safe until proven harmful. They are regulated more like foods, as opposed to drugs, says Haggans. The dietary supplement ephedra, used for weight loss or athletic performance, is one example of a plant compound that was pulled from the market following numerous reports of death and injury.

The Bottom Line on Energy Products

Energy bars, drinks, herbs, and supplements may be helpful in some instances, but they are not sure-fire remedies for fatigue. And don't assume that any of this stuff is inherently healthy. If you're just lying around the house, you really don't need a high calorie energy bar, nor do you need to fret about your electrolyte balance. Experts say you should just concentrate on a well-balanced diet.

"As long as you are eating a variety of foods -- in the spirit of the food guide pyramid -- you're going to be able to meet your nutrient needs," says Moore. "As long as you do that, your body is going to be able to carry out all of its functions in terms of transferring food into fuel with complete accuracy."

If a healthy diet is not helping with energy needs, examine the amount of sleep, exercise, and stress in your life. These factors, plus diseases and medications, can affect energy levels.

Originally published Sept. 20, 2004.
Medically reviewed February 2, 2008.

SOURCES: John Allred, PHD, food science communicator, Institute of Food Technologists. Cindy Moore, MSRD, director of nutrition therapy, Cleveland Clinic. Dee Sandquist, MSRD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association. Lisa Bunce, MSRD, owner, Back to Basics Nutrition Consultants, Redding, Conn. Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, professor of food science and human nutrition, University of Maine. Carol Haggans, MSRD, consultant, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Andrew Weil, author, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health. FDA. American Cancer Society. PowerBar. Clif Bar. Red Stallion Beverage. Amp. Sobe. Accelerade. Cytosport. Powerade. Gatorade. Glaceau Vitamin Water. Gu Energy Gel. Medline Plus. WebMD Medical Reference: "Phytochemicals and Cancer."

©2004 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

Last Editorial Review: 2/2/2008