By: Raymond Chu
People can become addicted to virtually anything and energy drinks are no exception. Regardless of whether you are a sleep deprived student studying for midterms and finals or if you are constantly finding yourself tired throughout the day, you are more than likely to have consumed an energy drink at some point for that needed “extra boost.”
In fact, a study published in Pediatrics reported that the amount of teenagers regularly consuming energy drinks has risen from 16% in 2003 to 35% in 2008 . Moreover, another study conducted on a random college campus found that 50% of its students drank at least one to four energy drinks within a month .
Monster, Rock Star, Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy: What do they all have in common? They’re all energy drinks with the drug caffeine, which is best known for its stimulating effects.
Caffeine amplifies the central nervous system through expanding blood vessels to increase alertness. As a result, your heart rate increases at the expense of dehydrating your body. While there is no recommended threshold for caffeine consumption, excessive caffeine intake has been linked to several health concerns including hypertension and sudden death . In fact, the caffeine content within energy drinks are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and so their listed amounts are usually inaccurate. In actuality, a higher amount of the stimulant is included than indicated . Although the contents vary depending on brand, there are several other common ingredients that you should be aware of, including ginseng, guarana, sugars, taurine and B vitamins .
While ginseng is claimed to be an athletic performance and immune system enhancer, there is little evidence supporting this or if the amount in energy drinks provides any benefit. Instead, studies have shown that high doses of ginseng may result in insomnia and hypertension . Guarana is another caffeine containing compound, of which its caffeine content is not included in the total caffeine amount reported.
Sugars in energy drinks have been found in large traces beyond the maximum recommended daily intake. This puts consumers at risk for obesity, liver failure and pancreatic cancer. Taurine, a common amino acid in our body, helps support brain development in addition to regulating our mineral and water levels. However, the taurine contents in energy drinks are higher than that of a normal diet, which may not be beneficial for the body. B vitamins have been found to improve one’s mood, but again, the amount within these drinks do not correlate to a meaningful effect . Not to mention, a combination of these ingredients may result in unforeseen outcomes.
Since the quality and quantities of the contents within energy drinks can lead to harmful addictions and puts us at risk for developing medical complications in the future, alternatives to energy drinks should be considered; these include handful of almonds, fruit smoothies, apples, and oatmeal . One should learn to practice moderation or even lifestyle changes such as getting enough rest, being active, eating well, and drinking plenty of water .
1. What’s In Your Energy Drink? (February 4, 2013) Retrieved May 20, 2016 from http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/04/whats-in-your-energy-drink/
2. 10 Natural Alternatives to Energy Drinks (n.d.) Retrieved May 20, 2016 from http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/10-natural-alternatives-to-energy-drinks?page=2
3. Energy-Boosting Alternatives to Energy Drinks and Caffeine (n.d.) Retrieved May 20, 2016 from http://fit.webmd.com/teen/recharge/article/fit-get-more-energy