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The Addictive Dangers of Energy Drinks

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The Addictive Dangers of Energy Drinks
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Energy drinks are like cigarettes: mildly euphoric in the beginning, calming to the nerves in the middle and addictive in the end. With such properties, how did these products come to be mass marketed to students, athletes and over-achievers? To be fair, energy drinks do provide a distinct jumpstart and even help to sustain high energy levels for a minimum of an hour and a half — a good chunk of time for concentrated training, work or study. Current scrutiny surrounding energy drinks, however, concerns the ingredient combinations and the health implications they carry.

Energy drinks are quite powerful and anything but benign. Because the body develops a resistance to caffeine in only 3–5 days, it doesn’t take long before more is needed to produce a reaction similar to the initial jolt. Consumers of stimulating beverages usually drink two a day; an average serving of 1000 ml contains 200 mg of caffeine and 2000 mg of taurine.[1] Higher rates of consumption have resulted in hospitalization and, in some cases, death.[2]

Bans have been implemented against these beverages in many countries, including France, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, Uruguay and Iceland. Saudi Arabia has imposed a partial ban and Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council member states have draft legislation in the works.

Why is there so much backlash over a beverage that’s supposed to be a sports supplement? Admittedly one can die from eating or drinking just about anything in excess. That said, the particular combination of ingredients in energy drinks, as well as their individual properties, are especially damaging to the body. Let’s take a look at what’s inside the can.

  • A sugar high. Although the World Health Organization recommends a maximum daily intake of 12 teaspoons of sugar, with an ideal of less than 6 teaspoons (around 25g),[3] energy drinks contain huge amounts of sugar, and most weigh in at over 6 teaspoons in just a single serving.[4] The fact that eating sugar can lead to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases[5] is widely documented, but did you know sugar has a similar effect to opium within the body?[6] It creates an initial feeling of mild euphoria, but ends up causing addiction.
  • Caffeine is a highly addictive ingredient and energy drinks typically contain about 100 mg per serving, with some containing more than 350 mg per serving.[7] According to the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Massachusetts,[8] “Caffeine is the main active ingredient in energy drinks, and excessive consumption may acutely cause caffeine intoxication, resulting in tachycardia, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and death. Caffeine may raise blood pressure, disrupt adolescent sleep patterns, exacerbate psychiatric disease, cause physiological dependence, and increase the risk of subsequent addiction.” Anything over 200 mg a day is considered excessive consumption.[9]
  • Taurine is another main active ingredient in most energy drinks, and its use with caffeine can cause a significant decline in heart rate and an increase in arterial blood pressure.[10]

The combination of these synergistically harmful ingredients in more than two servings a day can spark what poison control centers refer to as “energy drink toxicity.”[11] And, with the addictive elements contained, many people who drink two or more energy drinks a day can find it difficult to remain within the parameters that are currently considered safe.

There are energy drink alternatives that naturally help dispel fatigue and increase endurance. These boost metabolism, hydrate, stabilize glucose levels, and decrease cell toxicity for overall health benefits that last far beyond the initial jolt of energy drinks. Some examples are green juices, smoothies, green tea and on top of all water!