More and more stories are showing up in the news lately regarding the potential negative effects of energy drinks. Just last week, I saw a clip on the local news about the increased consumption of energy drinks may be linked to increased emergency room visits. So what is it about energy drinks that could be causing harm?
Caffeine, the main ingredient that provides the “energy” in energy drinks, is not a new substance by any means. It is naturally found in things we’ve been consuming for thousands of years such as coffee, tea and cacao. What is new about caffeine is that it is usually added into energy drinks in very large amounts. Caffeine is not considered a nutrient, so the amount of caffeine may not always be listed on a product’s label. The caffeine content of energy drinks varies greatly with some containing less than coffee and others containing a lot more.
Some symptoms that you may have had too much caffeine are:
· Stomach upset
· Fast heartbeat
· Muscle tremors
Another concern associated with energy drinks is combining them with alcohol. The FDA has issued warnings to companies producing caffeinated alcoholic beverages that they do not meet safety standards. The concern is that caffeine has the ability to mask some of the feelings of how much alcohol a person has consumed. This may lead to risky behaviors like driving when you shouldn’t, or drinking more than you typically would.
Energy drinks are not for kids! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, energy drinks “are not appropriate for children and adolescents and should never be consumed.” The AAP’s concerns are focused around the safety of stimulant ingredients, including caffeine, and their impact on children’s health.
<strong>Take home message:</strong><strong></strong>
The key to staying energized is to eat well, stay active and get enough sleep. Moderate intake of energy drinks in healthy adults is likely safe, but probably not the best way to achieve long-term energy.
Allison Walker RD,LDN, is the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Noble Hospital.