The CBD sports nutrition sector had its game significantly boosted in 2018 when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed the hemp-derived cannabinoid from its list of banned performance-enhancing substances – the market duly took off.
But the complex molecular profile of many CBD products means steadfast anti-doping guarantees remain difficult to achieve for a category seeking a legitimate seat at the table of clean sports performance.
“The sports nutrition category was slow to adopt CBD, but it’s now appearing in various products including pre-workout formulas, recovery drinks, and post-workout products,” said Rick Collins, partner at Collins, Gann, McCloskey & Barry in New York. “But drug-tested athletes use CBD products at their own risk.”
The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) puts it this way: “Many products which claim to be pure CBD extract or oil from the cannabis plant have traces of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or other cannabinoids. Thus, a consumer who buys a CBD oil, extract, or other CBD product should be aware that there is a high likelihood it is a mixture of CBD and other prohibited cannabinoids, such as THC.”
USADA special advisor Amy Eichner told us anti-doping labs “can test for and detect other cannabinoids” of which there are more than 100 in common industrial hemp extracts – and all of which are banned by WADA in-competition except CBD (cannabidiol) along with THC below a certain threshold.
“Our recommendation to athletes is to not use any cannabinoid product, such as a CBD preparation, during or close to a competition,” Eichner said.
Cereal killer: EFSA rejects Nestlé’s beta-glucan health claim
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has refuted a beta-glucan-based health claim from Nestlé – the Swiss food giant’s first EU health claim submission since 2010. Nestlé’s dossier linked oat and barley beta-glucan-fortified breakfast cereals with blood glucose management – but it was left to cry over spilt cereal milk after EFSA’s 16-strong health claims panel (plus four advisors) baulked over dosage and format.
A Nestlé spokesperson tells NutritionInsight “we’re disappointed” but highlighted “the positive feedback whereby EFSA confirmed the validity of the findings of one of our clinical studies”.
Europeans tackle doping problem in sports nutrition
The first-ever pan-European good manufacturing practice (GMP) for sports nutrition is the topic of hot debate as industry weighs up whether it will help enforce quality and weed out bad actors lacing products with doping analogs like steroids and stimulants.
Specialized Nutrition Europe (SNE) and The European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM) argue the voluntary GMP will build confidence in the sector among elite and other athletes.
However, the European Specialized Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), Europe’s largest sports nutrition-focused industry body, says the standard is ill-defined and will sow confusion.
Beetroot leader urges rivals to come clean about nitrate levels or beat it
Beetroot shot market leader Beet It is challenging other beetroot players to put up their nitrate (NO3) numbers or ship out of the rising sports nutrition category.
“Athletes are being misled by beetroot products that are not labelled with their nitrate content, or by beetroot products that do not provide an adequate dose of nitrate per serving,” said Beet It brand manager, Jonathan Cartwright.
Cartwright explained this labelling coyness by pointing to a 2018 study that found many beetroot drinks and supplements contained nitrate levels below the 300mg efficacious dose backed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and in some 200+ peer-reviewed studies.
“Our data reveal marked variation between different products and often even between different samples of the same product,” researchers in that study concluded.
Lawrence Mallinson, the managing director of UK-based Beet It owner James White Drinks, added that achieving beetroot nitrate potency and consistency was a supply and formulation chain challenge not paid due respect by many manufacturers in the sector.
“Beetroots have highly variable nitrate content and unless you try very hard – as we do – to ensure the beetroot juice is highly concentrated in a way to protect the nitrate – there is likely to be little there,” Mallinson said, noting a consumer would need, “293 pills of one particular product to get the nitrate equivalent of one of our Beet It shots.”
The IOC in a 2018 consensus statement found nitrate could aid muscle function and athletic performance when consumed at daily doses of 310-560mg.
As Europe’s probiotics ban fractures, is it time for a global standard?
The International Probiotics Association (IPA) has weighed in on Spain’s recent decision to permit probiotic labelling despite an EU ban, saying an international standard could resolve Europe’s increasingly splintered probiotics position.
“The establishment of global requirements would satisfy the triumvirate of authorities, consumers and, industry and will certainly lead to quality products, better consumer satisfaction, and health and well-being,” IPA executive director George Paraskevakos told NutraIngredients.
Spain’s recent decision to use EU mutual recognition principles to allow the term ‘probiotic’ on-product despite an EU ban on probiotics as an unauthorised health claim, has provoked law experts to question how much longer the EU ban can last.