Smarty plants

Smart drinks are already big among spacey Californians looking for an edge in their personal growth development plans; now they’re over here to expand your mind. Jonathan T rew flags down the travelling medicine show and asks if this is snake oil for the 90s: and opposite, The Lisr‘s crack drug squad decides whether to swallow the argument.

magine you could drink something that

enhanced your brain power, slowed down

the ageing process and made you feel tit,

healthy and generally top of your game.

Drinks that made you clever smart

drinks! It’s a neat thought but one with more than a touch of science fiction about it. In America, however, more than a few research dollars have been spent on the subject and two scientists, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, reckon they’re close to science fact.

Pearson and Shaw were respectively studying nutrition and looking into the causes of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. But ever the new-tech networkers, they pooled their research and came up with a range of ‘smart drinks’ based on a cocktail of nutrients, vitamins and amino acids, which Pearson and Shaw claim could enhance and prolong life. The sales literature for these potions is packed with the kind of wacked-out, West Coast psycho-babble we Brits usually have difficulty swallowing. The brochures speak of ‘major evolutionary turning points’, disturbances in ‘the traffic of brain chemicals’ and ‘advanced anti-ageing health maintenance formulation’. The drinks themselves have names like Personal Radical Shield, Power Maker 11 and Energy Cycle. Maybe the brand image will need a bit of tweaking over here.

Naturally the phenomenon is big in the US. where companies like the Life Services Centre make, market and distribute smart drinks through. yes indecdy. smart bars. Stateside the products are pushed as 'designer food‘ and according to the centre‘s spokeswoman Jeanetta Hicks. they appeal to people who are ‘mind and body conscious'. llicks is keen to give her personal testimony on the benefits of various

smart drinks but. hey. you don‘t have to take /l(’l'

word for it. ‘l‘lundreds of case studies have proven this to be true these effects that they have on the body.‘ she says. ‘Medical claims are not something that I‘m going to do. It’s not a direction that I want to go in. But l honestly believe that it does have a complete and total effect on your body.‘

Two people who are more than happy to spread the word this side of the pond are lan MacKie and Jacques Benatar, founders of a company called Cybertoniks. livery weekend they set out their stall in Edinburgh‘s clubs. offering a menu of smart drinks to clubbers looking to put a sparkle in their synapses. .‘ylacKie and lienatar shine with the passion of proselytes when discussing the effects of the products they sell; MacKie swears by smart drinks‘ health—giving powers and uses them regularly.

The idea of taking something at a club that's good for you is a bit of a radical departure from

the usual hedonistic ethos. which clearly states that if it doesn‘t damage your liver. burn your nostrils or blur your vision. it can‘t be much fun. licnatar and MacKic don’t see smart drinks as

mind-altering substances. but more as a way of

sharpening the mind and increasing alertness, a way for clubbers to dance all night without resorting to street drugs. ‘.\lore and more people are going to clubs who don’t drink. don‘t smoke. who don't take anything] says McKie. "fhese are the people who are taking smart drinks. ()ur best clientele can be bracketed as New Age. alternative to an extent >— techno-heads and 90s hippies.‘

The other product line (‘ybcrtoniks sells is khat drinks. which contain a mild stimulant called cathinone. often mixed with fruit juices. The khat plant on which the drinks are based is perishable so supplies have to be regularly imported to Britain. (,Tybertoniks is part of a

consortium charterng a plane to bring over

several kilos ofthe plant from Kenya each week. Khat drinkers in lidinburgh clubs say they feel relaxed. but stay talkative and sociable. The high is slight khat does not provoke any rush or trip -- with a vague sense of elation and wellbeing. ()r as the people of Yemen say: ‘Khat quietens the body and quickens the mind‘.

Drug/ink. a journal of the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence. states: ‘Prolonged

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14 The List 10-23 Mar 1995