Energy Drinks: Ingredients & Dangers

Energy Drinks: Ingredients & Dangers

Since the 1990s, energy drinks have gone from being the latest craze and fad to a permanent fixture in our culture. Given the various seemingly exotic ingredients, here’s a general introduction to the various energy drink dangers and advantages. I won’t go into great biological detail since you could probably write a book about the energy drink craze. Instead I’ll provide you with some information that should let you be a more informed consumer when it comes to energy drinks.

What are Energy Drinks?
An energy drink is a beverage that contains some form of legal stimulant and/or vitamins which are meant to give consumers a short term boost in energy.

The “Magical” Ingredients
In general, these drinks have one thing in common: They all contain a lot of sugar and/or caffeine. These could be considered the “active ingredients.” So before you go bragging about how powerful a certain drink was and how its natural ingredients helped you wake up in the morning or dance all night, consider that you probably got more of a sugar rush than anything else.

Energy Drinks & Marketing
The “thing” about energy drinks is that they are marketed as being all-natural energy boosters loaded with exotic ingredients that popular culture believes to be healthy. Energy drinks are generally marketed towards younger crowds, especially those who go to raves. People are buying energy drinks in record numbers, even at an incredible $2-3 for a can smaller than an average soft drink can. Just FYI, the energy drink industry is worth over a billion dollars in sales annually. Note that Red Bull energy drink leads the way. While Red Bull may have lame TV commercials, energy drinks tend to have cool logo colors and fonts, modern can or bottle shapes, and a “high energy” feel surrounding them. It’s a marketing company’s dream come true!

The Dangers of Energy Drinks: Side Effects & Long-term Effects
I’m just scratching the surface with what I have written here so let me give you some food for thought. When you are considering consuming energy drinks:

  • Make a mental note that while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is allowing companies to sell and market their energy drink products, there is still very little research that has been done on them. I suspect the FDA allows them to be added simply because they do not pose any immediate danger to energy drink consumers.
  • The long-term effects of energy drink ingredients, if any, are still not known meaning that drinking a lot of these drinks on a consistent basis may or may not harm you in ways that have yet to be researched.
  • Energy drink labels are frequently misleading or at least they are so ambiguous that when you buy them you simply believe what you want to believe. Remember that in most cases, the claims being made have not been proven.
  • It remains unknown as to whether any medical conditions and related prescription medication will interact with energy drinks. If you try an energy drink and react poorly to it, consult a physician.

Body Chemistry
Energy drinks all try to stimulate something in your body that leads to your awakening and feeling as though you have more energy. One big mistake that most people make is that energy drinks will have the same effect on them, regardless of the choice of drink, and ignoring an individual’s unique body chemical make-up.

Think about it this way: We know that alcohol has a unique effect on everyone who consumes it (some people get drunk faster, have different allergic reactions to alcohol, etc), so there is no reason to believe that these drinks will have a different result among various consumers.

Many raves don’t sell alcohol but in fact focus on water and energy drink sales. While gaining energy from sugar in and of itself is not such a bad thing, be warned that drinking lots of sugar can make you feel full. Carbonation, which can come from soft drinks as well, also makes you feel full. Ravers who become ill frequently keep dancing or remain active, and fail to re-hydrate as they should, in part because they think they’re full. What ends up happening is that their body shuts down due to the lack of fluids, and they collapse.

Are Energy Drinks Addictive?
Since consumption of energy drinks is so prevalent among youth and frequently associated with raves and the nightclub scene, many wonder about their addictive properties. In fact, the only truly addictive part of energy drink ingredients appears to be caffeine. So if you drink enough cans, you may become addicted to caffeine and ultimately suffer from the effects of the addiction.

Energy Drinks, Alcohol & Death
Bars around the world mix vodka with energy drinks, especially Red Bull. This is mixing a depressant (alcohol) with a stimulant (the energy drink). This can have an effect on your heart and claims have been made that this combination has led to death. As such, some countries in Europe have banned Red Bull and other energy drinks.

SoBe is a popular drink. It contains creatine in such minute amounts that it probably doesn’t have any effect. Same with Ginko.

The peculiar thing about taurine is that nobody really knows what it does! There is apparently no evidence that it has any major influence but it is possible that it does indeed have some effect on the body which leads to the feeling of having more energy.

Taurine & Caffeine are Key
One must also account for the mixed effects of the different energy drink ingredients. Consider that drinking different types of alcohol during a night of partying can leave you with an awful hangover. (Of course, you could try the anti-hangover pill). In an energy drink such as Guru for example, it is possible that the taurine enhances the effects of caffeine, giving you a slightly larger boost than if you had drank only one of the ingredients. This is just a theory however since it has yet to be scientifically tested.

Some energy drinks offer a variety of vitamins. It’s important to note that your body will take what it needs and pee off the extra vitamins. So this isn’t a major health booster.

Popular Terms
The most popular energy drinks include Red Bull, Monster, XS (get it – excess), Boost, Crunk, Rockstar, Crunk Juice, Full Throttle, Spark, Amp , Rush, SoBe, Pimp Juice, Shark, Piranha, Red Line, Bookoo, Socko, Fuze, Hype, Guru, and Atomic X.

This Citynet Magazine exclusive article was published in 2004 and since then, a lot of email has come in, mostly from parents who were desperate to get information on energy drinks. In most cases, their children were in the hospital or at least at home with severe issues related to energy drinks. Based on these emails, it would appear that the actual number of people suffering from the adverse effects of these drinks is larger than might be gathered from hospital reports.

Comments? Feedback?
If you have any insight into energy drinks, their ingredients, and the validity of studies related to the various ingredients, I’d love to hear them. The beauty of the Internet is that knowledge can grow right here as new info comes in.

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