Health tips: Canned energy

Published: December 12, 2011

Energy drinks contain ingredients which release additional caffeine beyond the ingredient listing on the label.

Canned energy

Felix felicis, the luck potion from Harry Potter, is much like how energy drinks are advertised. They promise to make you confident, daring and reckless. The adverts promise you the feeling of being airborne, just like the players on the Quidditch field.

The concept of energy drink is not new, yet it has only recently gained popularity. In 2011, it was projected that energy drink chugging is going to bring up the value of the market to 11 billion US dollars.

These drinks, which instantly cause ‘adrenaline rushes’, are essentially cocktails of sugars, caffeine and other substances. The amount of caffeine in one serving amounts to three times that in a Cola, or an almost equal if not more number of cups of tea. The caffeine in a single can of energy drink varies from 70-200 mg, and this amount exceeds the advised level of daily caffeine intake for younger consumers.

Though these facts might not seem too alarming, energy drinks contain ingredients which release additional caffeine beyond the ingredient listing on the label. These substances, including ginseng, can actually interact with medications being taken for other illnesses. The synergistic effect of all the substances in energy drinks have never been put under the microscope, neither have energy drinks been medically investigated in detail.

Moreover, energy drinks have other well-known adverse effects. They are known to cause anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, digestive problems and changes in blood which set your heart racing and thumping increasing blood pressure. Caffeine intoxication can also easily occur especially when larger servings are packaged in bigger cans. Numerous runs to the loo are also caused by too much caffeine intake, potentially resulting in dehydration. Athletes, children with heart conditions and insomniacs need to be especially wary of consequences of inappropriate use of these beverages.

Due to all these side effects, attempts have been made to even ban these drinks in certain countries, including France, where a young athlete fell victim to a tragic fate after a fatal combination of four energy drink cans and a game of basketball.

Recent medical literature advises moderation in their use. Energy drink consumption should be limited to not more than one 500 ml — a can a day. Athletes should rather rehydrate with suitable sports drinks which replenish salts and electrolytes, vitamins and nutrients.

Steer clear from bingeing and chronic use of energy drinks, because they have no proven benefits. People with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and so on, should consult with their physician with regards to using this product.

So before you drink in order to jump, just make sure you don’t end up like Icarus.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2011.

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