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“The roots of the energy drink phenomenon — and the claims surrounding ingredient mixes — can be traced to Japan. Those origins appear tied to the emergence of supposed cure-alls after World War II, a time when drugs there were in short supply.

In the late 1940s, Taisho Pharmaceuticals, a Japanese drug maker, began selling taurine extract, apparently drawn to it by accounts citing its wartime use by the Japanese Imperial Navy to reduce fatigue among sailors and sharpen their vision at night, a history of the drug company states….(A)round 1960, Taisho executives decided to use taurine in a new product, one that helped start the energy drink industry — Lipovitan D.

Lipovitan D, which was sold in a small vial, contained 50 milligrams of caffeine, 1,000 milligrams of taurine, various B vitamins and flavorings. The product, which was sold cold in drugstores, was a huge success during Japan’s economic boom years, particularly with overworked office employees….It was also in the 1960s that a product appeared in Thailand that was similar to Lipovitan D in its ingredient mix. It was called Krating Daeng (pronounced grating deng), or Red Bull. An Austrian businessman named Dietrich Mateschitz reportedly discovered it when trying to cure a case of jet lag and, in 1987, he and the drink’s Thai creator founded Red Bull.

from:  Energy Drinks Promise Edge, but Experts Say Proof Is Scant by Barry Meier
New York Times January 2, 2013