RadiThor: The Energy Drink That Was Slowly Killing Its Wealthy Costumers

The history of energy drinks goes way back into the beginning of the 20th century. And if today we rely on ingredients such as caffeine and taurine to boost our fatigue, there was a time energy drinks contained real energy.

This real energy came in the form of an active ingredient called radium. Radium is a radioactive element that releases radiant energy with every atomic decay. One of the popular energy-containing products was RadiThor.

RadiThor was just radium dissolved in water. It was sold from 1918 until 1928 in small, one-ounce (30ml) bottles costing about $1 each (approximately $15 in 2017 dollars). The manufacturer, company Bailey Radium Laboratories, claimed that the drink not only provided energy but also cured impotence. Of course, evidence for this sexual benefit were lacking, but, in this pre-Viagra era, many men bought and used the product in hope of getting their bird to sing. (the article continues after the ad)

The most famous customer of the drink was Eben Byers, a Pittsburgh industrialist. Although the product did not contain any addictive elements or narcotics whatsoever, Byers became addicted to it and was consuming large amounts. For three years, he was reportedly downing two bottles of the product.

But RadiThor was not a joke.

Radium has catastrophic long-term health consequences. By ingesting it, radium gets incorporated into the bones and, because its radiation energy is deposited in bone tissue, it opens holes into the bones. For Byers this led to a gruesome death as he developed holes in his skull, he lost most of his jaw and suffered a variety of other bone-related illnesses. His death was even reported by newspapers:

Photo: Chicago Tribune

But, how come this didn’t cause a public health crisis?

Well, for two reasons. First of all, unlike Radithor, most of the other energy drinks sold at the time, were total frauds and had no radium. Secondly, RadiThor and other products that actually did contain radium were extremely expensive. Therefore, only a few wealthy people, like Byers, were able to drink them, and only these people suffered the deadly consequences.

Saved by the price.

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Why Does Glass Bottled Coke Taste Better? 

Photos: livescience.com, 61015 / Pixabay
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie

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