Shocking myths behind energy drinks

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines energy drinks (EDs) as “a class of products in liquid form that typically contains caffeine, with or without other added ingredients such as glucuronolactone (i.e., glucose), pantheon niacin Maurine, B-complex vitamins, inositol, panthenol and inositol. Cola and coffee drinks are popular as drinks which provide energy before the introduction of energy drink globally, in the 1980s.  The consumption of energy drinks continues to grow worldwide and now it is available in as many as 140 countries including Sri Lanka as a part of a multibillion dollar industry. In Sri Lanka, the first energy drink was launched in 1999.  The global energy drinks market was USD 43 billion in 2016. Energy drinks give boost of energy, promote wakefulness, maintain attentiveness and provide perception and mood enhancement to the consumers by a combination of stimulants and energy boosters. The significant growth in the use of energy drinks for sport performance has led to attention by physicians and scientists to identified health concerns and future impacts on our performance, which are associated with these products. Nutritionists state that the stimulants used in making these energy drinks are above from the desired body energy levels. Consequently, some of the ingredients are not regulated to guarantee the safety on the users. The greatest danger of consuming energy drinks starts with unregulated caffeine components and its relatives. The caffeine used in making the energy drink is of higher quantity that it results in adverse health effects on the users.

Health hazards of ED

Risk-seeking behaviours

  • Aggressive behaviour (fighting, bullying, truancy)
  • Addicted to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs

Mental health effects

  • Stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Low academic achievement

Adverse cardiovascular effects

  • Increased systolic blood pressure (pressure in blood vessels during heart beats)
  • Increase diastolic blood pressure (pressure in blood vessels during heart rests)
  • Increased heart rate

Adverse metabolic, dental, or renal effects

  • Obesity risk
  • Risk of metabolic type 2 diabetes (diabetic caused by insulin resistance)
  • Teeth decay
  • Damage of micro-vascular in renal and accelerated chronic kidney disease

Other health impacts

  • Sleep dissatisfaction, tiredness, late bedtime
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain and irritation
  • Effect on bone development

Research evidences
Daily consumption of > 500mg of caffeine is considered unhealthy and according to research studies, one serving of energy drinks (250ml) contains 80mg of caffeine. Therefore, over consumption of energy drinks leads to sleep disorders, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, muscle tremors, and increased blood pressure as well as heart rate; due to the intake of high caffeine content.Taurine is the second most prominent ingredient in energy drinks while it is a non-essential amino acid since human body can synthesize it and can be found it in our brain, retina, heart, and platelets. However, taurine is semi essential for children as the metabolic pathways that synthesize these amino acids are not fully developed.  Taurine helps to regulate level of water and mineral salts, and also it may improve athletic performance and has ability to lower blood pressure. In addition to that studies state that combination of caffeine with taurine improves attention and verbal reasoning skills.  Nonetheless, there are some research evidence that daily consumption of > 2 g of taurine has potential in the induction of psoriasis, a common skin condition that causes redness and irritation. Just one serving of typical energy drinks contains 1g of taurine. Therefore, frequent utilization of energy drinks cause the acute toxicity.

Many energy drinks contain vitamin B, which is responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Vitamin B12 is particularly important in the formation of blood and the prevention of anemia. Vitamin B3 contributes to energy production in the human body by producing energy from fats, proteins, carbohydrates and starches metabolism. However, major common side effect of Vitamin B3 is a flushing reaction that causes burning, itching, and redness of the face, arms, and chest, stomach upset, dizziness, and pain in the mouth. Large doses of this vitamin B3 can increase the risk of irregular heartbeat. It also increases blood glucose levels, lowers blood pressure, and allergies.  Pyridoxine is the most common form of B6 found in energy drinks which is essential to the production of amino acids and the creation of genetic materials.

In conclusion, energy drinks may show positive beneficial effects on athletics and other daily performance. However, there are possible detrimental health problems since various parts of our body are negatively affected by energy drink consumption – particularly amongst children and adolescents. Therefore, a healthier life style such as feeding on fresh fruits and vegetables and getting adequate sleep will provide all benefits, and is a better alternative  than consuming energy drinks.

(The writer is a medical laboratory technologist at a private hospital and holds a MSc. Degree in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry from the University of Kelaniya and BSc. Food Production and Technology Management degree from the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka)

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