by Kimberly Allen, RN
Since 1997 when Red Bull hit the market, energy drinks have become the newest “trendy” thing. There are now several other “energy drinks” on the market, and you can find them everywhere. In addition to that every time you turn on the TV or open a magazine there’s an advertisement touting the wonders of these drinks. And American’s have bought into it spending more that $9 billion every year on them. But are they really safe?
These energy drinks promise improved alertness and concentration as well as improved physical energy. However, before you decide to buy one of those “magic” bottles or cans for that promised boost there are some facts you should know. First of all energy drinks are considered nutritional supplements which means they are not regulated by the FDA.
Different brands of energy drinks have different ingedients, though the main ingredient in all of them is caffiene. Now the FDA does have jurisdiction over soft drinks and does regulate the amount of caffiene in them. The amount of caffeine in energy drinks so not regulated or limited. For example, where every 24 ounce can of coke has 70-80mg of caffeine a 24 ounce
can of Monster has 240mg and some energy drinks have as much as 500mg of caffeine. Experts believe you should limit your caffiene intake to no more than 300mg per day to minimize potential side effects. In addition to caffeine, most energy drinks also contain a South American plant extract called guarana, which also contains caffiene increasing the amount of caffeine even more.
Along with the caffeine and guarana, these energy drinks also contain high amounts of sugar only they disguise it to make it sound healthier like calling it “natural cane juice” or “glucose”. The amount of sugar in these drinks can cause spikes in your insulin which gives you that “crashing” sensation later. There are also numerous other herb like Ginseng and Ginko Biloba as well as others. However, there is no research documenting the safety of using those ingredients mixed together or how the combination will react in people with existing health conditions or with certain medications.
Another problem with energy drinks is they were formulated for adults, but are also consumed by children and teens. The recommended caffeine intake for children and teens is significantly lower that the average amount contained in energy drinks which can cause significant health issues. The maximum amount of caffiene children can safely consume is 2.5mg per kg of body wt. That means for a child of average weight between 4-6 years of age the maximum amount of caffeine should not exceed 45mg or one 12 ounce cane of caffinated soda, or 85mg which would be approximately 2 cans of caffeinated soda for children 10-12 years of age. So these drinks are NOT recommended for consumption by children and teens.
Unfortunately, many children and teens equate energy drinks with sports drinks. They are not even close. Sports drinks like Gatorade contain electrolytes and are formulated to rehydrate and create energy where energy drinks can deplete the electrlytes and lead to dehydration.
With the recent reports of deaths associated with the use of energy drinks there have been many questions raised about their safety. Like anything else when used properly energy drinks can be useful. They should not be consumed by anyone 15 years of age and under and always in moderation. Never drink them on an empty stomach or in combination with alcohol. Also, no one, teens or adults should use energy drinks to replace sport drinks when exercising or engaging in physical activities as this can cause you to become severly dehydrated which can lead to potentially serious health problems.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.