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Energy Drinks, Coffee, Soda: a Health Dilemma?

More than one-third of teens are consuming daily energy drinks “just to get through the day." What are the health ramifications?

Ask anyone older than 30-years-old this question: “Did you drink coffee or energy drinks growing up?” Most likely you will get a “No."

Sure, there was the Coke and Pepsi challenge, but it was usually only served at parties. Ask anyone under 20 today if they consume caffeine and the response is going to be “yeah!” (with a look of confusion as to why you asked such a dumb question.) Why the energy shift? Why are so many kids walking in to the with coffee from Coffee Bean in Upton, and from in to Tedeschi’s or from into for their Energy drinks?

The New York Times, in 2008 put it simply: "About a third of 12-to 24-year-olds say they regularly down energy drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States.”

I visited s this week and was surprised at the number of different choices one might have when searching for an energy blast. There was the coffee corner, a wall of energy drinks or soda, and the “5 hour energy” drinks at the checkout. All of these drinks ranged from $1 to $3.50: a high cost for energy a teen should have naturally.

I was more surprised when I read the energy drink labels. They all contained caffeine yet only half of them listed the amount (80-200 grams). They also contained 200-1000 mg of Taurine and 29-53 grams of sugar. The soda also contained an undocument amount of caffeine and 33-39 grams of sugar. The kicker is these labels are referring to one serving, but all of the bottles stated each were 2 to 3.5 servings.

The health concerns exist because consumers are drinking the entire bottle bringing their total caffeine, Taurine and sugar intake to extraordinary levels, which then causes a crash sending them back to the store for more energy.

Caffeine consumption among teens has increased emergency room visits in the U.S. with complaints of heart palpitations, dizziness, and nausea. In 2009, U.S. emergency rooms treated almost 10 times more cases of reactions to beverages such as Monster and Rockstar than they did in 2005, according to a U.S. government report. I fear what might happen when the inhaled caffeine AeroShot hits Milford.

There is a two-fold concern in these drinks. First is the inconsistency in clearly stating how many grams of caffeine the product contains. Second is the mega-doses compared to coffee, which contains 80-160 mg of caffeine to the 240-600 mg consumed if they are not sticking to the serving size.

Taurine is an amino acid found in animal product. However, in these drinks, it is usually made synthetically from 2-hydroxyethanesulfonic acid. Although Taurine is potentially dangerous for those who have kidney failure, the FDA considers a dose of less than 1,000 mg/day per kilogram safe. Very little research has been done for cumulative, long-term dosing. One study in 2001 by Baum and Weiss revealed a difference in the heart muscles when mixing Taurine with caffeine documenting an increase in stroke volume (amount of blood pumped with each beat) and diastolic intake (ventricular filling) in young athletes compared to those in the placebo group. It is believed 18-year-old Ross Cooney, a British basketball player, died this way.

Sugar is in everything and wreaks havoc on our health. One of the ways my clients gain control of their weight and diabetes is by educating them to keep their sugar content below 40 grams each day (these drinks fail). I have commented on in the past, and these drinks are no different. One drink was marketed as “No Sugar” but contained glucose, Maltodextrin and in the ingredients. These all act like sugar in the body: increasing insulin production, leading to  and Pre-Diabetes.

What has happened to the energy of our youth? What can we do to redirect this trend? Is it over scheduling? Is it lack of outdoor play? Could it be the lack of 5-8 fruits and vegetables a day? Could it be the continuous technology? Is it the sugar in everyday products (like the 23 grams in Chobani yogurt) making us crash and crave more? What are the health ramifications to consuming these beverages in higher doses at younger ages?

Samantha Morris February 29, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I love the Vita Coco coconut water, its so hydrating and gives energy with out chemicals! although if I choose, I always go for coffee. Energy drinks scare me!
Krista B. March 02, 2012 at 08:12 AM
It's because of an overload of stress, homework, lack of sleep....I see this a lot in students who excel in school. The classes they take are harder, more time consuming....kids are tired and want more energy so they consume caffeine as a resort for late night studying,

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