Danger lurks in use of energy drinks

Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, November 5, 2008

By by Carolyn Bivens – Extension Agent
I found this article rather intersting; especially when I think of all my friends and relatives who drink these High Energy Drinks for the "lift" (from the caffeine) they think they need in order to drive long distances with out getting sleepy. Just think of the danger they are putting themselves and their families through! It's really scary!
Be Careful With High-Energy Drinks
By all accounts, Jason is smart, responsible and enterprising - a model student holding down an evening job and taking a full course load at his local community college, hoping eventually to transfer to a four-year college to finish a secondary education degree.
But in the view of many health and nutrition experts, he is about to do something stupid and irresponsible. To pull himself through the next round of studying for a midterm exam, he has bought a 6-pack - not of beer, in this case, but of so-called high-energy drinks loaded with caffeine.
Chances are he is as unaware as most teenagers and young adults of just how big a jolt he'll get from consuming this drink.
Caffeine - not how much there is in the product - is all that is listed on the label. Talk about understatement: Some of these high-energy drinks contain as much as 500 milligrams of caffeine - roughly the equivalent of three to five cups of coffee.
Compare that with the preferred study aid of many college students a generation ago, caffeine tablets, which typically contain between 100 and 200 milligrams of caffeine.
Therein lies an irony: Caffeine tablets and other similar over-the-counter products are required to carry labels, while high-energy caffeine-containing drinks are not.
Ironic and scary: Exposure to especially high levels of caffeine causes some significant and unpleasant side effects that are far removed from what many young people seek from these beverages. Effects include nervousness and an inability to focus on much of anything - a far cry from the heightened concentration levels consumers hope to get from these products.
Add to that insomnia and increased urination. Users also have reported increased laxative action, nausea and greater susceptibility to heat stress. Among competitive athletes, the high doses of caffeine from these drinks may result in urine drug test failure.
The problem is getting worse. More and more young people are consuming these drinks and paying the price.
According to the results of a 2007 survey of almost 500 college students, 51 percent reported consuming at least one energy drink during the previous month. Of these, 29 percent reported “weekly jolt and crash episodes.” Nineteen percent reported heart palpitations.
Equally unsettling, 27 percent of the students reported mixing high-energy drinks with alcohol at least once during the previous month.
A growing number of nutrition and health experts are calling for mandatory product labeling, much as they have for another largely underregulated category of products popular among many young people - dietary supplements.
Speaking of dietary supplements, there are some stark parallels between this industry and the high-energy drink sector. High-energy drink companies are locked in a game of one-upmanship with their competitors, adding extra levels of caffeine to maintain their competitive edge. Many dietary supplement processors have used similar practices for years.

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