Energy Drinks
Energy Drinks

Monster, Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy - heavy advertising dollars are spent by the companies who manufacture them. They primarily focus on the college market, especially at exam time. It's big business, if they had their way, energy drinks would replace coffee. One Red Bull advertisement reads, "Nobody wishes they slept more in college." They are making big bucks at the expense of thousands of students' health. Fifty percent of college students say they consumed one to four energy drinks in the past month while only 15 percent of adults have. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, energy drink-related emergency room visits doubled from 10,068 in 2007 to 20,783 in 2011. Most patients were between the ages of 18 to 25.

Recently lawmakers and health activists called for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate these beverages. Manufacturers do not have to disclose the ingredients nor the amount of caffeine on the labels. Often the ingredients that have a stimulant effect are not listed. Energy drinks can contain three to four times the amount of caffeine that you would find in a cup of coffee. A six ounce cup of coffee contains 100 mg of caffeine. A can of soda is regulated to have no more than 65 mg of caffeine while some energy drinks contain between 150 and 505 mg per can.

Most of these drinks contain high amounts of sugar, taurine, and guarana. Guarana contains guanine, which is also caffeine. One gram of guarana is equal to as much as 40 mg of caffeine. Often the amount of guarana is not listed on the labels so the stimulant effect is much higher than one would imagine. Also, the higher quantities of sugar cause tooth decay and weight gain.

Some deaths and other health complications have stemmed from the use of energy drinks. I experienced this first-hand. When my son was 17, he attended at party where energy drinks were served. Not knowing how dangerous they were, he consumed quite a few of them. The next night he went into the bathroom and we heard the sound of things breaking. My husband said, "What are you doing?" When there was no reply, he ran in and found my son on the floor having a seizure. It is not fun to witness this, especially when it is your child. The next day he told us about the energy drinks. Through our research we learned that energy drinks can cause seizures by altering the balance of electrolytes through dehydration. He has not touched one since.

Excessive caffeine causes anxiety, digestive problems, vomiting, heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, and an increase in sleep disorders. It leads to dehydration, making it more difficult for the body to flush out the toxins, thus increasing them, and can cause seizures and sometimes death.

This month a new study was released showing the effects of energy drinks on the heart. Using cardiac MRIs researchers saw an increase in heart contractions (how hard the heart squeezes to pump the blood out) for one hour after an energy drink was consumed. Large quantities or consuming these drinks for a prolonged period of time can be dangerous. This increased stimulation causes thickening and scarring of the heart, leading to a rise in cardiac rhythm abnormalities which could be deadly.

Another concern is when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol. The stimulant effect of the caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, which is feeling lethargic. A person will not feel as intoxicated as they should and they continue to drink. Students who mix alcohol with energy drinks experience higher rates of injuries, drunken driving incidents, alcohol poisoning and being taken advantage of sexually.

It's important to look at what is going on in our lives and personal health. What is creating reliance on these drinks? Students use them because they are tired, did not get enough sleep, or need to pull an all-nighter. Many feel it provides mental clarity. Studies have shown that when compared to a placebo, (sugar-free lemonade) consuming an energy drink had no significant effect on reasoning, concentration or aptitude.

If you feel like you are reliant on energy drinks it may be a good time to take stock of your life. Why are you so tired? Are you getting eight hours of sleep each night? Is your diet well-balanced and free of junk food? Are you drinking eight glasses of water a day? Do you exercise daily? Fatigue can stem from a deficiency in any of these. What is your time management like? If you establish healthy habits you will be less reliant on them.

The bottom line is that energy drinks do not contain healthy ingredients. We don't need the caffeine, guaranine, and sugar. You are what you eat; ingest things that enhance your overall wellbeing. Treat your body like a temple- it's the only one you've got. If you do so, you will be rewarded with a better quality of life.

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