In the United States, the popularity of energy drinks has skyrocketed in recent years. People are incorporating them into their daily diets with other caffeinated drinks like coffee, soda and tea.
As the number of available energy drink options continues to rise, more people are relying on these energy-boosters more than ever before. However, due to the number of mysterious ingredients, many wonder how safe these drinks really are.
One of the main concerns with these drinks is the caffeine content. Many experts recommend no more than 300 to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. However, when the use of energy drinks is combined with other caffeinated beverages, it's easy to pass this limit without even realizing it.
Since the FDA doesn't require the caffeine content to be posted on product labels, it's hard to know how much caffeine is in these drinks. This can become a big problem for children and teenagers, who make up the majority of the market for these drinks. Their bodies can't handle the same amount of caffeine as an adult, so consuming these drinks increase their health risk.
When too much caffeine is consumed, it can present side-effects such as:
Nausea and vomiting
Increased heart rate and high blood pressure
Nervousness and shaking
The number of people receiving emergency treatment as a result of consuming energy drinks doubled between 2007 and 2011. Another frightening fact is that 1 in 10 energy drink-related emergency department visits results in hospitalization according to the U.S. Department of Health.
Another concern with energy drinks is the additional added ingredients. Many of these beverages contain ingredients such as taurine, gaurana, ginseng, and sugar. Some added ingredients, such as gaurana, work as a stimulant on their own. When combined with caffeine, this could result in additional health problems for some people. One of the main problems with the added ingredients is that most consumers don't know what they are. Many have little nutritional value and the effects of the ingredients are still relatively unknown. It is believed that the continuous exposure to the ingredients in these drinks could lead to long term health problems such as obesity, diabetes, blood pressure issues, and cardiac problems.
As an alternative for increased caffeine consumption throughout the day, many doctors recommend simple lifestyle changes for increased energy. Getting a better night's sleep, getting more exercise, and finding time to relax during the day can help increase energy. Also, diet changes can help provide you with more energy. In the morning, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast for energy early on in the day. If you need a boost later in the day, instead of going for an energy drink, try juice or a smoothie that is made from fruits or vegetables.
"If people need caffeine for a pick-me-up, it would be better to try regular coffee or iced teas instead as they have a smaller caffeine content when compared to energy drinks," suggests Rhonda Bird Schlorff, registered and licensed dietitian at Jersey Shore Hospital. "Regular servings of coffee or tea are much safer alternative."
"The health problem with energy drinks," Schlorff said, "is not only the caffeine content, but also the attractive packaging and marketing to an impressionable age group. This appeal makes the consumer want to consume large quantities in a short period of time to achieve the desired energy burst. Each can usually contain two servings, and a consumption of two cans (which is not beyond the thirst level of an active teen) contains approximately 300mg of caffeine." The highest safe-limit for children and teens is approximately 100-150mg.