Energy Drinks, Worth the Risk?


The beverage manufacturing industry has just discovered a big new bonanza for making profits, in the production of the so-called "energy drinks". Now that sodas and sports drinks have gotten a tainted reputation for their high sugar and low nutrition content, the industry has found a new angle: the "energy drink".

Energy drinks have several extra ingredients added to sugar water which is the main ingredient. Most have very large amounts of caffeine, plus a combination of other ingredients such as guarana, ginseng, taurine and carnitine. These extra ingredients have unproven claims of increased performance and possible unknown harmful effects. But the caffeine is the major concern from a medical point of view.

Some countries are so concerned about energy drinks that they are restricted. For example, in Australia all energy drinks have warning labels saying not recommended for children or pregnant women.

Caffeine Effects

Although caffeine in smaller amounts has been shown to increase alertness (it's a stimulant drug), it also has many troublesome side effects. High doses of caffeine can cause jitteriness, headache, anxiety, rapid heart rate, insomnia, high blood pressure, irritability, and indigestion. Caffeine is addictive: children as well as adults can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using caffeine. Withdrawal symptoms are similar to the side effects, and include irritability, anxiety, fatigue and headache.

Caffeine is also a diuretic, so it increases urine output. This means your body loses water, and you can get dehydrated, so energy drinks could be dangerous during sports activity!

College students have a long history of using caffeine (such and coke and coffee) to stay alert cramming for exams and studying late at night. But an alarming trend is developing with the use of energy drinks. These have many times the amount of caffeine, plus other possibly harmful ingredients. What are the long-term effects of "whipping" your body and your brain with so much caffeine?

Deadly Drink

Even worse: young adults and teens are starting to mix hard liquor with energy drinks so they don't pass out from the alcohol so easily. This is a very dangerous habit!! High school and college kids sometimes experiment with drinking, and might drink so much they pass out. Most of the time they will pass out from drinking before they reach a lethal (deadly) amount. Then they sleep it off. With the energy drink mixture, they are now able to keep drinking past the lethal dose, so when they pass out, they stop breathing and die.

Even if you don't die from alcohol overdose, drinking energy drinks with alcohol is dangerous for other reasons. The alcohol increases your chances of dehydration, and blocks the warning signs of caffeine overdose such as headache, weakness and dry mouth. More dangerous yet, the caffeine changes your perception of how coordinated you are, so you think you can drive when you are actually too drunk to drive. This greatly increases your chances of DUI arrest or vehicular homicide.

 

© Rick Voakes 1999, Health-bytes LOGO  by Rie Cramer