The scary truth behind energy drinks
By Basma Raza
We have all heard or read the story of the girl who died after drinking Monster, the energy drink. Even though that is the one case we might have heard, the FDA is investigating other deaths that they think might have been due to energy drink consumption.
The question arises, then, why are energy drinks so important to college students? Well, according to recent statistics, it is estimated that approximately 39-57 percent of college students consume energy drinks on a regular basis. Whether it is for finals, writing a last minute term paper, or to stay awake after a long exhausting day, energy drinks are a cheap and easy alternative.
What we don’t pay attention to are the implications of consuming energy drinks for health reasons. These popular energy drinks, Red Bull, Monster, Venom, 5 Hour Energy and Focus, among others, also share some common ingredients. Some of them include taurnine, creatine, B-vitamins and especially caffeine which have shown to have some pretty drastic effects on your body and short-term memory.
These ingredients combined together and consumed in large quantities can have rather drastic implications. Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid in our bodies which helps in protein building. But when it is synthetically made, the illnesses can range from high blood pressure to strokes and seizures to heart disease. In Scandinavian countries, it has been banned after it was linked to the death of three consumers.
Creatine is an organic acid which helps in supplying energy to all cells, especially muscle cells. However, through excessive dosage and in combination with other ingredients found in energy drinks, it has been related to muscle cramps, gastrointestinal distress, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration.
Now I know you are thinking that B-vitamins sound like a good thing. They are because they play a vital role in cell metabolism. But wait, here is the catch, vitamins B6 and B12 which are the most common, in large doses can contribute to numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, insomnia, hyperthyroid, and the deterioration of vital organs such as kidneys, liver, and the nervous system.
We all love caffeine; it’s our friend, it helps us pull all nighters to study for exams, and write papers but there are things we don’t know. First, we are unaware of how much caffeine exactly is in these energy drinks. Dr. Yirfah Kaminer, professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry & Alcohol Research Center at the University of Connecticut notes that, “While the amount of caffeine in a typical soft drink or usual cup of coffee is 71 mg/355 mL (12 fl. oz.) (both of which are regulated by the FDA), the amount of caffeine in a typical energy drink can range from 116 mg in a can of Red Bull to 428 mg in a can of Spike Shooter (not FDA-regulated).”
And in such high dosage the dangerous side effects of caffeine can range from heart palpitations, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, and chest pains.
Even though so far no deaths have directly been linked to energy drink consumption, there are plenty of cases where high dosage of caffeine and other ingredients in energy drinks led to serious medical problems.
I know that while it’s hard to quit cold turkey, we can take baby steps and try to reduce our intake of energy drinks.
Brendan Brazier, in his book, Thrive Foods, says it best: “Obtaining energy by way of stimulating is like shopping with a credit card. You get something you desire now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay eventually. That bill will come.”
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