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article imageLazy Cakes melatonin-laced brownie stirs controversy

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By Kim I. Hartman     May 18, 2011 in Food
Memphis - A popular new relaxation brownie that contains melatonin and other naturally found herbal ingredients has hit store shelves, and is being touted by some as a legal alternative to marijuana brownies.
His name is Lazy Larry and his cartoon picture can be found on the label for Lazy Cakes Relaxation Brownies. The brownies are becoming the new craze among teens and adults who are attracted by the appearance of the chilled-out Larry in a supine position, inviting others to become more relaxed like him. The company claims to have sold millions in the first six months of operation.
It's not the extreme relaxation benefits that some are opposing or the unsubstantiated claims of the manufacturer that "this product may cause the excessive use of the word dude," that critics object to. It's the choice of a cartoon character for a mascot, that may entice children to try the product, that has public health workers and some city officials concerned.
“Children are attracted to brownies,” said Dr. Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to put herbal things that are actually drugs in brownies or food items that are attractive to children. I think that’s heinous,” reports the Boston Herald. In her medical opinion, "10 mg of melatonin would cause an adult to abruptly fall asleep."
According to the maker of Lazy Cakes, the brownie, which looks like any other snack-cake, is not intended for consumption by children and is not geared toward children in their marketing or product labeling. They clearly state on their label that any claims of relaxation benefits have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
So why a brownie and a cartoon character? "Why not a brownie, is the question" said Tim Barham, Lazy Cakes co-founder.
"Lazy Larry is a relaxed brownie. That was the visual representation of a relaxed brownie. That was the purpose of using him. We gave him a personality,” said Lazy Cakes spokeswoman Laura Finlayson. “They are not marketed to children. This is not about any drug culture."
What are the ingredients in Lazy Cakes? The manufacture says they are just like the brownies your mother use to make. The label says they contain sugar, butter, eggs, chocolate, wheat flour, water, vanilla, cocoa salt and a 'Proprietary Calming Blend' (15mg): Valerian Root Extract, Rose Hips Extract, Acai Berry Extract, Goji Berry Extract, Passion Flower, Melatonin.
The 'Proprietary Calming Blend' contains 3.9 mg of Melatonin, according to the label, which also lists the serving size as one-half of the brownie.
What is Melatonin and how is it used?
"Melatonin is a hormone made by a part of the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin may help our bodies know when it's time to go to sleep and when it's time to wake up," says the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Melatonin can be used to treat insomnia (difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep) or other sleep disorders. It can also be taken to prevent jet lag. Beyond that, there is little scientific evidence that melatonin has a role in promoting health or treating disease.
What are the side effects of Melatonin?
"Some people who have taken melatonin have reported sleepiness, headache, a "heavy-head" feeling, stomach discomfort, depression or feeling hungover. Further study is needed to find out more about melatonin's side effects, especially delayed or long-term effects. For example, we don't know if melatonin causes problems when taken with other medicines."
The Boston Herald reports the mayors of Fall River and New Bedford, Massachusetts are calling for a ban of the product.
“It’s despicable,” said Fall River Mayor William Flanagan, who drafted an ordinance to ban Lazy Cakes after a concerned citizen made him aware of the product. New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang said, “If you are going to have a product like this, you’ve got to have it carefully regulated and it can’t be available to children."
A review of the Lazy Cakes Facebook page finds mixed reviews, some from highly satisfied customers, and others calling for parents to be more responsible about what they purchase for their kids to snack on and what dietary supplements are inappropriate for children.
Multiple news agencies have reported on children consuming the products and then needing medical attention after becoming lethargic. NPR reports, "National poison center data show melatonin prompts more calls than any other herb or supplement."
The Lazy Cakes website says the product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases and should only be used by adults who lead a stress-filled lifestyle.
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