Functional food and drinks are flooding the market to help consumers improve health and overall well-being. PepsiCo Inc. is joining the market and is releasing a new beverage, Driftwell. Driftwell is a zero calorie, zero sugar flavored water enhanced with L-theanine and magnesium to help promote relaxation and improve sleep. Each 7.5 oz can contains 200 mg L-theanine, 40 mg magnesium, and is currently available in blackberry lavender flavor. But does Driftwell really work? Let’s dig in.
When it comes down to it, Driftwell claims that both L-theanine and magnesium will make you more relaxed and improve your ability to sleep. But how effective are these ingredients? First, let’s break down L-theanine.
Will Driftwell Really Work: How does L- Theanine reduce stress and increase relaxation?
L-theanine is an amino acid found in mushrooms, but green and black tea contain the highest amounts. L-theanine crosses the blood-brain barrier in approximately 30 minutes, and any anti-anxiety results are expected to last from 8 to 10 hours. Researchers have found that L-theanine may have certain anti-anxiety effects. However, limitations to studies include small groups of human subjects, reliance on individuals self-reporting their feelings of stress, and utilization of rodents as subjects.
Some research shows that L-theanine can reduce stress and anxiety by lowering heart rates and blood pressure. It also can increase dopamine and serotonin — “the feel good” and “happy” hormones — while reducing stress-causing cortisol. A study in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied 16 participants who received one 50 mg L-theanine dose. They found a significant increase in alpha waves in the brain, which can enhance relaxation.
L-theanine can also increase GABA (gamma aminobutryic acid), a neurotransmitter that can produce a calming effect.
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Will Driftwell Really Work: What Do the Studies Say?
Let’s get clinical here. (As in “clinical trials.”)
Thirty participants were randomly administered 200 mg of L-theanine or placebo daily for four weeks in a 2019 study in the Nutrients Journal. These participants did not have any mental health diagnoses. Researchers utilized Self-rating Depression Scale and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory — a clinical tool to help diagnosis anxiety — to determine if stress symptoms improved. They found that these scores improved significantly after L-theanine vs placebo.
Another study by Sarris et al in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2019 studied 46 participants with a general anxiety disease diagnosis and L-theanine. Researchers found that after daily 450-900 mg L-theanine for 8 weeks there was no significant improvement on anxiety vs the placebo recipients, based on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale.
In a 2007 study in the Biological Psychology Journal, researchers found that 12 participants who took L-theanine had decreased heart rate in times of stress vs placebo participants.
So what did we learn here? That there’s a lot more to learn.
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Will Pepsi’s Driftwell Really Work: How Much L-theanine is Enough?
Tea is the largest food source of L-theanine. However, the average cup of tea provides anywhere from 8 to 85 mg L-theanine. The quality, type, and preparation of tea leaves can alter these levels. It may be difficult to benefit from L-theanine’s anti-anxiety effects from tea alone. Each Driftwell can has 200mg of L-theanine. Which is much more than the average cup of tea.
Next, let’s focus on Magnesium.
How does Magnesium reduce stress and increase relaxation?
Magnesium is a mineral easily found in foods such as dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Magnesium has hundreds of important roles in the body including blood pressure and blood sugar management, heart and bone health, muscle and nerve function.
While more definitive, high-quality research is needed, one study shows that magnesium supplementation may improve anxiety and stress due to its role in the hypothalamus, which regulates cortisol release in times of stress.
In short, we don’t know enough about magnesium’s ability to help with stress. One study isn’t enough for science to have any definitive answer to this question. We know it’s good for you, but we don’t know if it will help you count sheep or calm down.
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Will Driftwell Really Work: How Much Magnesium is Enough?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for magnesium is 420 mg/day for adults. One study recommends a supplemental magnesium dose between 75-360 mg/day to achieve the anti-anxiety benefits. However, the Office of Dietary Supplements recommends limiting supplemental magnesium to no more than 350 mg daily. Driftwell contains 40mg magnesium sulfate, well within that limit.
Too much magnesium can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac issues. That shouldn’t be an issue with Driftwell — unless you drink over 10 per day. (Dietitian Tip: You probably shouldn’t drink 10 of anything per day. Unless it’s 10 glasses of water.)
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Will Driftwell Really Work: The Verdict
There is promising research thus far regarding L-theanine and it’s stress-reducing effects. However more research is needed due to studies’ small population samples. There are no long-term studies at this time.
The cost of Driftwell is about $23.00 per 10 pack. This may deter consumers from trying it. Because it can be more cost-effective to try L-theanine supplements from a reputable manufacturer to help manage stress. Or try a CBD product like Beam Dream.
As a registered dietitian, would I recommend this product to a friend? It wouldn’t be my first choice to help someone de-stress or get better sleep. But I also wouldn’t be opposed to it. If someone decides to give Driftwell a try, I would advise to proceed with caution. There is no long term data on prolonged use, and the short term data is very limited.
But if someone is looking to relax, I would first recommend the tried and true stress management practices. Those include yoga, exercise, deep breathing, and petting animals (why do you think they call them “therapy dogs.”)
L-theanine and magnesium can interact with other medications and supplements. It is best to consult with your doctor if you plan on incorporating supplements into your daily routine.
Christine Morgan is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian who currently practices in dialysis. Her experience includes renal nutrition, food service, and geriatrics. Her education includes a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and she completed her Dietetic Internship with the University of Delaware. She is also a member of the Tri-State Renal Dietitians Association.