On the Rise
Energy drinks are on the rise but there are many downfalls on our, physical and mental, health. Available in over 140 countries, fastest growing beverage market and sales in 2011 topped $9 billion (Seifert et al. 1). Almost everyone has tried one, they offer a cheap and quick fix of caffeine in the morning, but are they safe? We are aware of the dangers of sugar, but what about the other ingredients? There seems to be a lot of research surrounding the topic but with opposing conclusions. Recently, new evidence has been unveiled and it is incredibly shocking. As someone who has consumed them for many years, being ignorant of the studies that frowned upon them, I have reconsidered. Recently, I have found natural ways to keep myself energized. The first thing you need is a healthy, well-balanced diet like this one. Not being able to get a direct answer from anywhere on energy drinks, I delved deep into scholarly articles until I found what I was looking for. Here is what I found.
Energy drink sales have skyrocketed in the last decade and they are everywhere. They are becoming increasingly popular in society because they are a quick solution to fatigue and have up to three-fold the caffeine than an average coffee. In a recent study 30 – 50% of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks, although it does not state the frequency (Seifert et al. 1). Studying the effects of the ingredients in energy drinks is becoming very important due to their massive inclination in sales.
Energy drinks have been around for a long time and have a history of being bad for you. RadiThor was an energy drink from the early 1900s which contained radium, about 2 μCi, and we all know how healthy radium is for you (Macklis 1). The modern version of these drinks, while not containing radium, are still massively damaging to your health. The drinks we will be focusing on are the carbonated, caffeine and taurine infused drinks, or caffeine concentrates you buy at a convenience store or gas station. The ingredients, at first glance, seem to be somewhat healthy; upon further inspection, you will find otherwise.
Caffeine dependence is something that isn’t really considered today. Primarily because it is so widely used, it has become a staple in diets worldwide. Just like any drug, we can develop a dependency with it and this can be dangerous. Caffeine dependency has been recognized as an actual syndrome (Strain et al. 1). I think most of us want to believe we can stop drinking our morning caffeine, but I sincerely doubt most us wouldn’t last a week. Hell, people even sport clothing, mugs and other products displaying their love of coffee. This is something we really need to start considering; could caffeine dependence become the next big issue?
Use and Abuse
Probably not, but it is pretty scary. People have started creating mixed drinks with energy drinks and some companies have started producing energy drinks with alcohol in them. Students were more likely to have unprotected, casual sex when intoxicated with alcohol mixed with energy drinks (Miller 1). This is obvious. The correlation isn’t that broad though; when mixing the two, these young adults were more likely to be more drunk, binge drink more often, and had more unwanted alcohol related outcomes than those who just drank alcohol alone (O’Brien et al, 1). Now we have students and young adults who are mixing two drugs which are both known to cause huge issues. Not only that, but if you look at most energy drinks they often carry a label that states “Do not mix with alcohol.”
Teenagers who are mixing energy drinks with alcohol, as mentioned, are at higher risk of doing something stupid. Most people might assume that it is just the alcohol, but it has been found that when adding in energy drinks it makes it more likely (O’Brien et al. 1). While energy drinks are not to blame for teenager’s issues, they are a considerable part of them.
While we are still on the topic of liver damage; new research shows that high amounts of Niacin (Vitamin B3) can cause liver inflammation and acute hepatitis C. Recently, a man from Canada has developed Hep. C from consuming 5 energy drinks a day for 21 days straight. (Zafar 1) Some drinks will bear a warning that cautions consumers of a Niacin flush, this is just the beginning of its side effects. Niacin is used to treat people with high cholesterol but other than that it should not be taken in high doses. You are probably now starting to see the disadvantages of drinking energy drinks.
Children and adolescents are not to be forgotten when it comes to energy drinks. They have access to these drinks every day. As mentioned before, 30 – 50% of adolescents consume energy drinks. Along with all the dangers I have been talking about most children do not understand the dangers and this brings out the risk of overdose. Some of the compounds have been linked to risky behavior (Seifert et al. 11). Children are also a lot more susceptible to bodily harm than adults and with the drinks growing popularity it’s something that should be addressed. Personally, as a child I had encountered a couple of stores who were refusing the sale of an energy drink because I was under 16. At the time, I was not happy. Looking back, I am glad things panned out the way they did.
Positive Effects? Maybe not.
The argument will often be made that, yes, there are positive sides to using caffeine. These positive effects are most noticeable when the drug isn’t used everyday and you aren’t consuming it with herbal supplements and chemicals. Most of these haven’t been efficiently studied. One group of researchers have found that Red Bull can improve driving abilities in the fatigued (Mets et al. 1). Some may still believe that it is still beneficial contrary to all the evidence; caffeine can be beneficial when used in moderation, energy drinks are different.
Another known “positive” effect is the attention/focus boost energy drinks seem to give. A study done in 2013 shows habitual caffeine use has no conclusive evidence to show it aids in attention (Einother and Giesbrecht 272). A different study discovered that some energy drinks provide a temporary impact on memory and concentration (IsHak et al. 32). For the occasional user, or someone who doesn’t drink caffeine habitually, it can be beneficial. Unfortunately, in most cases, people drink it everyday thus wearing down the positive effects yet continuing to provide the negative ones. This tolerance causes you to need more caffeine which means you are consuming even more of the junk that comes along with it.
Some will claim that, with all the herbal and vitamin supplements in energy drinks, they can improve quality of life or well-being. A study done in 2016 showed that energy drinks have no impact on quality of life or well-being (IsHak et al. 32). The theory that energy drinks are a healthy alternative to anything is ludicrous. There are healthy ways to wake up in the morning.
Tea. Dating back as far as 59 B.C. it is known across the world for its abundance of health benefits. For those who consume a lot of caffeine, tea might not make the cut for you. Tea has less caffeine than a cup of coffee so it takes a decent amount to wake up; although, there is literally no harm in drinking a cup. A study has shown that drinking tea may even prevent cancer (Jankun et al. 2).
Caffeine pills have only the side effects of caffeine. No sugar, herbal supplements, Niacin, just caffeine and some fillers. They are a bit controversial because it is very easy to overdose but when used properly can be very useful. Being a user of caffeine pills I can say that they are highly efficient and don’t provide as much of a crash as an energy drink or coffee would.
The best alternative, which I cannot even bring myself to do, is to go cold turkey and use your body’s natural resources to wake up. Unfortunately, most of us have demanding lives which don’t really allow for that.
Finally, I would like to bring your awareness to something else. Artificial sweeteners have had a lot of accusations over the years and they are also in a lot of energy drinks. Aspartame studies tend to be very inconclusive. Studies on Sucralose have found that it does not cause bladder cancer (Elcock and Morgan 1). I have, and will continue to, stay away from artificial sweeteners. Sugar is bad enough, why would you eat the artificial version?
Almost every study cited here ends with “more research needs to be done”. Having just scratched the surface of the ingredients, there is so much more to look at. A study was done with a couple of the drink types I have mentioned in this article and it shows each participant who had issues and what those issues were. Some of them are pretty nerve wracking. I don’t believe a product should be sold to be consumed until we are aware of what it does. Then again, that wouldn’t stop anyone because look at cigarettes.
While some of these may not be entirely conclusive, there seems to be a lot of evidence stacked against energy drinks. When I started writing this article I was consuming an energy drink and that will be my last. I often try to encourage family and friends not to drink these drinks because of the problems they cause. Often people shrug it off, assuming just one won’t hurt. In conclusion, there is a lot to consider and still a lot of research to be done on this subject but if you want to be safe, don’t drink them.
I’ve found that having a proper diet, like this one that I have mentioned before, and drinking plenty of water allows me to have lots of extra natural energy thus removing my need for any caffeine use.
Seifert, Sara M., Judith L. Schaechter, Eugene R. Hershorin, and Steven E. Lipshultz. “Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults.” AAPPublications. American Academy of Pediatrics, Mar. 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.
Macklis, Roger M., MD. “Radithor and the Era of Mild Radium Therapy.” Jamanetwork.com. JAMA, 1 Aug. 1990. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Strain, Eric C., MD, Geoffery K. Mumford, PhD, and Kenneth Silverman, PhD, et al. “Caffeine Dependence Syndrome.” Jamanetwork.com. JAMA, 5 Oct. 1994. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
Miller, Kathleen E. “Alcohol Mixed with Energy Drink Use and Sexual Risk-Taking: Casual, Intoxicated, and Unprotected Sex.” NCBI US National Library of Medicine. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., June 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
O’Brien, MC, TP McCoy, SD Rhodes, A. Wagoner, and M. Wolfson. “Caffeinated Cocktails: Energy Drink Consumption, High-risk Drinking, and Alcohol-related Consequences among College Students.” NCBI US National Library of Medicine. Acad Emerg Med, May 2008. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
Zafar, Amina. “Acute Hepatitis after Heavy Energy Drink Use ‘a Warning to the Consumer,’ Liver Specialist Says.” CBC. CBC, 1 Nov. 2016. Web. 2 Nov. 2016.
Mets, Monique A.J., Sander Ketzer, et al. “Positive Effects of Red Bull® Energy Drink on Driving Performance during Prolonged Driving.” SpringerLink. Psychopharmacology, 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Einother, Suzanne J., and Timo Giesbrecht. “Caffeine as an Attention Enhancer: Reviewing Existing Assumptions.” ProQuest. Psychopharmacology, Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
IsHak, Waguih William, MD, Chio Ugochukwu, Kara S. Bagot, and Christine Zaky. “Energy Drinks: Psychological Effects and Impact on Well-being and Quality of Life.” ResearchGate. PubMed, Jan. 2012. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Jankun, Jerzy, Steven Selman, and Ewa Skrzypczak-Jankun. “Why Drinking Green Tea Could Prevent Cancer.” ResearchGate. PubMed, July 1997. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
Elcock, M., and R. W. Morgan. “Update on Artificial Sweeteners and Bladder Cancer.” Science Direct. Elsevier Inc., 1 Feb. 1993. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.