Energy Drinks

Concentrated sugar and caffeine (energy) drinks in particular are waiting to unfold their ugly side effects on society. I observe on Friday and Saturday evenings numerous teenagers purchasing three or four cans of energy drinks at the local ‘servo’ as a legal alternative to alcohol. Though ‘not marketed directly’ to children or teens, and displayed away from soft drinks, with health warnings clearly visible, a teenager can purchase one can for $3 or a four-pack for just $5, making it legal and affordable for teenagers to purchase. And the cans are getting bigger.

Drinks such as V, Mother, Red Bull, RockStar, Pussy, Boca Lupo, and Monster contain up to 14 teaspoons of sugar (compared to nine teaspoons in regular soft drink) and three times the caffeine content compared to Coke. Some also contain stimulants like guarana, ginseng, taurine, glucuronolactone, inositol and B vitamins. There can be significant problems if energy drinks are combined with sport, alcohol and recreational or pharmaceutical drugs.

Energy drinks can cause dehydration, headaches, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, aggression and can contribute to a 25 percent increase in heart rate maintained for twice as long as normal — increasing stress on the body.

Yet some school students, young teenagers and many twenty-somethings consume a can for breakfast and two to four cans per day in an effort to maintain their continuous hit of caffeine and sugar. They are addicted. Consuming this quantity is way above the recommended daily intake suggested on the can, but what child reads the small print on a can?

An article presented by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners points out that a typical 250 ml mug of coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine. Energy drinks contain about the same amount of caffeine per 100 milligrams (32 ml), but most energy drinks come in larger sizes and are drunk more often during the day or evening, often by children. Adults can consume the same amount during the day, on top of coffee. And remember, children eventually become adults bringing their addictive behaviours with them as they slowly develop their consequential chronic illnesses which will eventually overload the sickness industry.

Monster contains 160 mg of caffeine per 500 ml can. Drinking three to five cans per day can supply up to ten times the recommended daily limit of caffeine. Symptoms of caffeine overload include anxiety, jitteriness, nausea, diarrhoea, insomnia and increased heart rate. Withdrawal from caffeine can often cause the same symptoms but with increased headaches and moodiness. Do you know any children or Gen Ys’ around you that fit these symptoms?

As a side note, sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade provide electrolytes and sugars and have been shown to be beneficial for elite sportspeople who strenuously exercise for many hours. Children drinking sports drinks are normally unable to fully utilise these sugars which are consequently converted to fat, contributing to childhood obesity. There are numerous healthy ATP enhancing energy drinks mentioned in the resources section.

What our younger society are really doing is exhausting their adrenals which may impact on the body in the longer term resulting in high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, kidney problems, diabetes, blindness and Alzheimer’s.

Recent research shows that ongoing consumption of energy drinks lowers the empathy level of the drinker, therefore they have less consideration of their impact on other people — they become self-centred and find it difficult to read other people’s emotions and relate in a meaningful way. This has often been a stereotypical complaint about ‘Gen Y’, but perhaps it’s more about what they’re consuming than how they were raised. Incidentally, drinking caffeinated soft drinks like Coke on its own had a similar effect on the empathy scale, whereas drinking water on its own improved empathy.

Extract from Ramiah’s new book… Clean Up Your Act (Visit: cleanup-your-act.com for more information)

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