Do you know of a teenager that is addicted to energy drinks? Energy drink consumption for teenagers and people in their twenties is the fastest growing group in the soft drink industry, with sales totaling a whopping nine billion dollars. In fact, they are quite popular on most college campuses, and among adults in the workplace. Many of these energy drink companies are finding ways to maneuver the FDA, and do not have to report how much caffeine or even disclose certain information to the FDA. Many people are becoming dependent upon these drinks, as they feel that they perform better during physical and mental activities, can stay up longer to study, fight fatigue, increase metabolism and athletic ability. The CDC reported that “one in three adults consumed an energy drink within the past week, 21% had drank them more than once in the last week, and 11% consumed more than three energy drinks per week”. The most alarming trend is that these drinks are commonly coupled with alcohol, and research shows that college students consume more alcohol when mixed with energy drinks.
Drinks such as Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, AMP, 5-Hour energy, and others contain such ingredients as caffeine, Taurine, sugar, (even more sugar, such as sucralose and high fructose corn syrup), synthetic vitamins and chemicals, and other flavorings. Side effects can include:
Caffeine: According to the Mayo clinic, caffeine has been shown to cause anxiety, nervousness, tremors and shakes, dehydration, headaches, rapid hard rate, difficulty breathing, increased blood pressure, irritability, and lack of sleep. It stimulates your central nervous system, making it difficult for many people to sleep. Red Bull among many other energy drinks that contain a lot of caffeine, causes the body to leach calcium, resulting in weaker bone structure, which can then contribute to Osteoporosis when taken over a long period of time. Red Bull is banned in Norway, Uruguay, France, and Denmark because of its many adverse effects.
Taurine: An essential amino acid, Taurine helps regulate bodily levels of water and salt, and is an anti-oxidant. It also plays a role in helping cardiac patients with angina and respiratory issues. The University of Utah reports that consuming only one amino acid supplement like Taurine can alter nitrogen balance in the body, lower metabolism and put undue stress on kidney function. Increased Taurine supplementation in children can cause stunted growth.
Sugar: With an abundance of extra sugar such as glucose and sucrose, tooth decay and other dental problems can develop, not to mention adrenal and pancreatic problems. Rockstar contains 102 grams of sugar!
A healthy alternative: drink orange juice, and eat orange slices to help improve circulation and oxygenate tissues. Apples are great fruits to increase energy as well! So goes the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Alarming statistics include:
- A federal agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reported energy drinks caused over 13,000 emergency room visits in 2009.
- Children are drinking more caffeinated drinks, and are averaging 60-70mg per day, and sometimes as much as 700mg per day.
- 33% of US teens, and 50% of college students consume energy drinks and caffeinated beverages on a consistent basis.
Do Energy Drinks help athletes perform better? Creighton University conducted a study on 17 college males, to research the effect of sugar-free Red Bull on weight lifting. The study determined no improvement in lifting after consumption. Another study was done by Utah State University with a low-calorie caffeine energy drink with Taurine on 20 NCAA Division I football players, and they did not run faster or perform better in various athletic tests.
When choosing a drink, water is your best bet. You can even consider adding lemon / lime drops to your water. Smoothies with added fruit and a quality protein powder also helps with energy. Do your research to determine which drink is right for you, and what positive and negative effects they may cause.