A recent study conducted by John Hopkins University has concluded that energy drinks should be labelled with highly visible health warnings aimed at young people.
The study based its recommendations on research that discovered certain drinks contained as much as 14 times more caffeine than the average can of cola. This is the same as drinking seven cups of coffee.
Researchers tested 28 different energy drinks on the market and the conclusion is pretty astonishing.
Energy Drink Effects
Energy drinks seem to be promoted from one of two perspectives. One line of promotion veers towards a sports focus, indicating to the consumer that these drinks might enhance physical stamina. Then there is the ‘morning after’ approach, which offers up energy drinks as a means of coping with the after-effects of a big night out, or a way to give yourself a boost if you’re feeling tired or jaded.
WLR says . . .
Children and young people are extremely susceptible to advertising and peer pressure. A clever marketing campaign can very effectively harness their attention and affection towards a particular product and, subsequently, their cash.
However, whilst the image of an individual drink might captivate, most young people don’t wade their way through the ingredients list on a bottle or can before they buy it. Even if they did, would they be aware of the energy drink caffeine content and what it means?
Energy Drink Facts
An adult who has built up a certain tolerance to caffeine might be able to drink a number of cups of coffee over the course of a day without any ill effects. However, a child or adolescent drinking the equivalent of seven cups in one go is certainly cause for alarm.
Whilst we have become accustomed to hearing about the high amounts of sugar in fizzy drinks and the scary things that certain brands can do to grubby coins, caffeine content has, until now, largely been overlooked.
It is only relatively recently that it has become more of an issue that needs addressing, as an increasing number of energy drinks are released onto the market and their popularity rises.
Are Energy Drinks Bad For You?
The marketing behind many of these drinks has tapped into the adolescent psyche and they are extremely popular with young people. But this sudden rush of caffeine can have detrimental effects on behaviour and concentration and it seems that many schools have already realised the potentially harmful consequences.
So much so, that a number of schools around the country have now banned them, citing bad behaviour and an inability to concentrate after consuming the drinks, amongst the reasons. In some cases, it is individual brands of drink that have been banned.
This is going to make it an ongoing battle between the marketing executives and the schools, as Head Teachers must stay on top of trends and new launches in the energy drink market.
When ever the potential dangers of energy drinks arise in conversation, caffeine content is usually the first and most heated topic of discussion. Is it true that caffeine is the main active ingredient in most popular energy drinks? And if so, what’s so bad about caffeine; what is it about caffeine that has encouraged so many that the general public should be warned about the dangers of energy drinks or at least seek healthier alternatives to energy drinks? Is the content of caffeine in most energy drinks dangerous for the average adult individual to consume in the first place?
These questions certainly should not be overlooked. But neither should we allow the hype of caffeine content to obscure the real question at hand, which of course is whether or not energy drinks are bad for you. Caffeine is not the only consideration to be taken into account when analyzing the costs and benefits of energy drink consumption. To even begin answering the question of if energy drinks are bad for your health, not only must one look into the constituents of the typical “proprietary energy blends” similar to most energy supplements, but also examine the ingredients in energy drinks, those beyond the the advertised energy and mood enhancing agents.
Considering the Ingredients in Energy Drinks
Identifying and discussing the most popular ingredients in energy drinks should provide a solid foothold for our discussion of whether energy drinks are bad for you. Energy drinks contain “energy blends” consisting of energy enhancing ingredients, such as caffeine, B vitamins, ginseng, guarana, and taurine.
The Good Energy Drink Ingredients
Caffeine: Caffeine is the most widely consumed drug on the face of the planet. But how does it affect one’s health? In 1958, the Food and Drug Administration classified caffeine as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). However more recent studies have shown that there is no evidence that demonstrates that the use of caffeine in carbonated beverages yields these products harmful to the health of adults. There’s a general consensus among experts that common-sense and moderation are the keys to consuming caffeinated foods and beverages. Moderate caffeine consumption is around 300 mg a day for adults. However this amount varies greatly depending on the individual, his size, tolerance, sex, etc. While it is recommended that adults consume no more than 300 mg per day, this amount of caffeine would be far from enough to cause any (serious) health problems to an otherwise heathy adult.
Guarana: Native to the Amazon Basin and especially prevalent in Brazil, as a dietary supplement, guarana is an effective energy booster. Guarana is often thought of as a healthier yet more potent form of caffeine than that derived from coffee beans. And Indeed, guarana and caffeine are similar in many respects. In fact, guarana contains guaranine, which is identical to the caffeine derived from other sources, such as tea or coffee. Only the guarana seed contains roughly twice the amount of caffeine than the similar sized coffee bean. In addition to caffeine, guarana seeds contain other energy and metabolism enhancing ingredients. Like most naturally occuring sources of caffeine, for instance, guarana seeds contain a mixture of xanthine alkaloids other than caffeine, such as the cardiac stimulants theophylline and theobromine and other substances such as polyphenols.
Ginseng: Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.In numerous studies Ginseng has been shown to: (1) increase energy, (2) increase the body’s ability to maintain its antioxidant status, (3) decrease lipid levels such as LDL cholesterol, (4) improve sexual performance and increase desire, (5) benefit attention, mental arithmetic, logical deduction, and more.
The Bad Energy Drink Ingredients
Besides the highly promoted energy blends, energy drinks contain other ingredients of interest to our discussion. For the most part, these are the ingredients that make some energy drinks bad for your health. Such ingredients include sugar, carbonated water, and certain artificial sweeteners. Here, I shall keep it brief and focus on the pitfalls and adverse affects of carbonation and high sugar content in energy drinks.
Sugar: The, often immensely, high level of sugar found in most energy drinks cannot be overlooked. Many energy drinks contain significantly more sugar than a bottle of Coke or Pepsi. Though sugar is known to provide a quick pick-me-up, the energy boost is short lived and often followed by an unpleasant crash as the energy enhancing affects of the sugar quickly ware off. In addition to the nasty crash brought on by the high levels of sugar in many leading energy drinks, such high sugar contents often correspond to high calories. Moreover, the sugar levels found in many energy drinks can contribute to insulin problems.
A major concern has recently surfaced surrounding the role of sugar-packed energy drinks in the increase of child obesity, since teens and young adults are the primary targets of most energy drink marketing campaigns.
Carbonation is often overlooked with regards to its affects on your health. However, many believe that this is a major mistake and that carbonated beverages can have serious adverse effects on your health. Carbonation reduces the amount of calcium in your bones, which could lead to an earlier onset of osteoporosis.
Located at the Top of the Weight Loss Pyramid, Sugar is the number one ingredient to avoid.
Somewhere in Between Good and Bad
At this point it is unclear whether certain ingredients, when in energy drinks, are healthy, harmful or insignificant. Taurine, for instance, is a highly controversial ingredient in energy drinks. In fact, energy supplements that contain both caffeine and taurine have a long history of being banned in certain countries due to the potential danger and lack of knowledge concerning the mixture of the two ingredients.
Naturally occurring in meats and fish, significantly excess amounts of taurine are found in most energy products featuring the chemical. Because no intensive studies have found conclusive evidence on the combined effect of taurine and caffeine on humans, certain energy drinks such as Red Bull have been banned in Norway, Denmark, Uruguay and France. Mixed with caffeine in energy drinks, taurine has been claimed to cause neurophysiological problems and has been linked to several deaths. The uncertainty of possible health risks surrounding the mixture of caffeine and taurine is why many countries have banned energy drinks containing taurine and why energy drinks in the U.S. and Canada require warning labels.
B vitamins also fall somewhere between good and bad in terms of the health affects of energy drink ingredients. Various B vitamins are now commonly found in many energy drinks. However, addition of B vitamins as an energy enhancing ingredient is more of a marketing tactic than an added benefit to the consumer. The addition of B vitamins to energy drinks is nether good nor bad for your health. Excess B vitamins are simply filtered out of the body through urination. The high content of B vitamins in energy drinks does not correspond to high energy, the excess is simply discarded.