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Brain health with psychoactive drinks

05 November 2014

According to Karin Nielsen, Director of the Ingredients Division at Canadean, the psychoactive drinks market for adults is exploding, as naturally derived ingredients from fruit, plants and roots prove to have an impact on cognitive health. 

“Some properties of fruits, plants or roots such as ginseng, blueberries and chamomile have a positive impact on cognitive health,” argues Nielsen. “For example, properties from Panax Ginseng, a root naturally occurring in Asia, appear to fight idiopathic chronic fatigue. Blueberries are said to be antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects, while also reducing depressive symptoms. Scientists also found that the polyphenol and apigenin naturally found in chamomile, the passionflower and to some extend in the sin citrus fruits can have a positive effect on people suffering from depression and anxiety.”

Economic burden caused by cognitive health issues

Nielsen says: “This extensive research on naturally occurring health remedies comes at a time when the economic burden inflicted by migraine patients is estimated at $17 billion, and 56% of the US population is complaining about sleep disorders. Moreover, 10% of the European population suffers from GAD – generalised anxiety disorder – which inflicts a cost of € 11.6 billion on the economies in Europe. The cost of supplying the global population with antidepressants and psychotherapy drugs now exceeds $70 billion, revealing how urgent this search for preventative brain bioactive nutrients has become.”

Natural and no additives key for psychoactive drinks 

However, falling back on naturally occurring ingredients is not as easy as it sounds: “Our blood stream is the transport way for all nutrients and signal molecules, but there is a gate keeping track of what molecules are allowed to enter the brain space and impact the grey cells. This is a challenge for the food industry, as nutrients are modified during digestion, making it difficult to breach the blood-brain barrier,” adds Nielsen.

For manufacturers of psychoactive drinks – beverage with substances that cross the blood-brain barrier – the focus has been on natural sources and no additives. US-based Agua Enerviva offers beverages with natural colours, flavours, caffeine and low sugar content. Nielsen says: “Targeting health-conscious consumers, the product pits itself against sugar saturated, stomach-churning energy drinks with scary ingredients and claims to be suitable for consumption at any time of the year.” Canadean data shows that the market value of food and drinks specifically bought for cognitive health purposes lies at $200 million – a relatively small, but growing market. For comparison, Canadean valued the global energy drinks market value at $40 billion in 2013.


Agua Enerviva

The psychoactive Agua Enerviva beverages are available in Maté Lemonade, Strawberry Kiwi, Fruit Punch, Orange Passionfruit and Pomegranate Berry flavours.



Karin Nielsen will present key findings about cognitive health and the brain food trend at this year’s Food Matters, a nutrition and health exhibition in London. Food Matters will take place from the 18th to the 20th of November, 2014, at ExCeL, London. Karin Nielsen will speak on the 20th of November, 10.45 - 12.50, Room 20. For more information, please contact the Canadean press office on +44 (0) 207 936 6536 or e-mail

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