Know what’s fueling your energy: info about energy drinks for young adults

Know what’s fueling your energy: info about energy drinks for young adults

College students are no strangers to energy drinks. The flashy cans of Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar are marketed to young adults who often need a quick jolt of energy to maintain their active lifestyle. The drinks are advertised to boost energy, improve concentration and increase metabolism, which may sound like a perfect beverage for a young adult on the go. New studies published over the past several years, however, reveal the possible dangers and misconceptions of energy drinks, particularly for teens and young adults.

Energy drinks are the fastest-growing beverage product in the United States. In fact, spending on energy drinks is up 700 percent from 2000, when these drinks were just hitting the market. Aggressive marketing has helped to create this $3.5 billion industry where teens and young adults are estimated to account for $2.3 billion of drink sales. According to self-reported surveys, 30-50 percent of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks.

Unlike soda, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the caffeine content of energy drinks because it considers these drinks “dietary supplements” rather than foods. Because of that distinction, the FDA does not require caffeine content and warnings alerting consumers of the dangers related to excessive consumption on the labels. The FDA has regulated the caffeine content of soda to 65 mg per 12-ounce drink. Coca-Cola Classic, for example, contains 23 mg per 8-ounce drink. Energy drinks, on the other hand, may contain anywhere from 80 to 300 mg for an 8-ounce drink. Some energy drinks are only sold in 16 or 24-ounce sizes, however, making the caffeine consumption for one energy drink drastically higher.

Caffeine is not the only stimulating ingredient in these energy drinks. Many drinks have what they call their “energy blends” that contain ingredients such as taurine, ginseng and guarana. The added effects of these supplemental ingredients further increase the stimulating effects of the drink.

Young adults, especially college students, are often attracted to these energy drinks because of their perceived benefits, such as improved memory, alertness and physical endurance. Many, however, are unaware of the health risks involved with high levels of caffeine consumption. In fact, emergency room visits because of caffeine intoxication have drastically increased in the last decade, from approximately 1,000 in 2005 to 16,000 in 2008. Serious effects of caffeine intoxication may include seizures, heart arrhythmias, strokes, heart attacks and even death. People with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, seizure disorders and thyroid disease should not use stimulants such as energy drinks because of an increased risk of these serious side effects.

When used in moderation, however, caffeine content less than 300 mg is safe for most consumers. Because the FDA does not regulate energy drinks, and because they contain ingredients that cause additive effects to caffeine, however, determining how much caffeine you’re actually consuming can be difficult. This confusion is further complicated by packaging of energy drinks in cans often containing up to 2-3 servings.

Though energy drinks may initially give that jolt of energy, consumers eventually experience a crash in energy once the effects have worn off. Furthermore, frequent consumers require increased levels of caffeine to receive the same energy high. Withdrawal effects such as headaches, fatigue and depressed mood may also occur with end of your habit.

It is important to note that studies have been unsuccessful in proving that energy drinks are more effective in increasing energy levels or improving cognitive function than traditional caffeinated drinks such as sodas, tea or coffee. Instead of reaching for caffeine loaded energy drinks consider visiting a local coffee shop for a more traditional jolt of energy.

As seen in The Tulane Hullabaloo, 3/23/2012

Tags Posted under Featured by