Faith A. Lightfoot, BSE
With the introduction of Redbull to the United States in 1997, many athletes started consuming these drinks for additional energy and a reduction of fatigue. However, as word spread about the effects, the general public joined this drink craze. With “31% of energy drink consumers between 12-17 years old, and 34% ranging from 18-24 years” (1), there now seems to be concern regarding the safety of these drinks by athletes and non-athletes alike.
What’s in it?
Create a mixture where the primary ingredients are: caffeine, which in some drinks ranges from a modest 50 mg to an alarming 505 mg per can; taurine, an amino acid that supports neurological development and helps regulate the level of water and mineral salts in the blood; guarana, a stimulant similar to coffee; sugar and salt along with other ingredients like vitamins, minerals, and herbs, and you have an energy drink.
What’s it going to cost you?
Although energy drink prices depend on which brand you choose, cans range in size from 8.4 ounces to 16 ounces and cost between two to three dollars.
To drink or not to drink.
The hazards of energy drinks are minimal for people who use the beverages occasionally
for a boost of energy. The individuals who should be concerned about energy drink
hazards are the consumers who rely on these products to get them through each day, consuming one or more a day or adding alcohol to the energy drink.
Caffeine is a natural diuretic and contributes to dehydration. Guarana increases blood pressure, heart rate, jittery feelings, and sleepless nights. The mixture of the two can certainly bring on health concerns.
Add sugar, which in large amounts can cause a dramatic drop in energy, creating sluggishness and possible mood changes; salt, which increases blood pressure in some hypertensive people --and you have an energy drink promised to keep anybody going way past the point of exhaustion.
Because these drinks are fairly new to the market place, limited research has been done on the effects of excessive consumption. However, a review from Epilepsy Behavior states that although there are no reported cases of health implications in published literature, “a series of four patients had discrete seizures on multiple occasions, following heavy consumption of energy drinks. Once the patients were abstinent from the energy drinks, no recurrent seizures were reported.” (2)
So, what’s the verdict on these drinks? Certainly, energy drinks are powerful beverages that should be consumed with caution. Everyone should heed the warnings regarding potential dangers and maximum recommended consumption. With the limited research and unknown hazards of some of the ingredients it would be wise to consume with caution.
For more detailed information on energy drinks check out:
- www.MayoClinic.com and www.CSPInet.org
- Michele Simon and James Mosher. “Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth: A Dangerous Mix” (The Marin Institute 2007)
- Clauson KA, Shields KM, McQueen CE, Persad N. Safety issues associated with commercially available energy drinks. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2008 May-Jun; 48(3): e55-63.