Guarana is a type of berry grown in South America that is used much in the same way caffeine is used to supplement sodas, candy, and even chewing gum. The berries themselves are extremely similar in composition to coffee beans, and although the chemicals in the berries are slightly different, they have the same basic effect as caffeine at about the same dose level. In the US, consumers will find the berry used in weight loss supplements, and the newest trend is to include its extracts in energy drinks.
Some websites claim this berry as the latest medical silver bullet and that it can address many different issues. It has been touted as an effective weight loss treatment and a concentration aid. Like caffeine, it can temporarily increase concentration, boost mental and physical performance, and give the mood a slight lift. It may also slightly suppress appetite. On the other hand, too much of it can have the same negative effects as those produced by caffeine.
Though the drug ephedra is no longer available in the US, consumers can find many energy drinks and pills containing a combination of guarana and ma huang (ephedra) on the Internet. These have been proven dangerous, and there is a risk of death in people who take ephedra. Such supplements can help a person lose weight, but it's not worth the risk to his or her life. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urges people not to purchase these products.
Guarana in energy drinks has created problems too, especially among teens and young adults. There is the possibility of getting ill from consuming too much caffeine, no matter how it is labeled. Some teens and adults have become very ill after consuming high numbers of energy drinks.
As for weight loss claims regarding guarana, it can be said that it’s about as effective as taking caffeine pills. Caffeine pills for weight loss have been on the market for about 50 years, and if they worked effectively, anyone who wanted to lose weight would use them. They clearly are no substitute for diet and exercise and will not cause massive weight loss.
Some claim the benefits of these berries lie in the fact that they are more natural than caffeine, but this is highly questionable. Caffeine may be lab produced, but plenty of it comes from natural sources too. The coffee bean is no less natural than the guarana berry.
Despite dubious health claims regarding this berry and its chemical compound (called guaranine), it’s now being marketed in energy drinks as a safe and natural alternative to caffeine. Most medical practitioners advise consumers to treat these drinks with care. While consuming the occasional energy drink can be fine, people should not consume any more than that on a regular basis. If people treat guaranine as they do caffeine, it can guide them toward making healthier choices and ignoring inflated claims about this product.