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As a writer, there is a stigma surrounding drinking large amounts of coffee to fuel the creative juices. While this isn’t quite the case, I do enjoy a cup now and again. There is, however, something more dangerous to drink I’m sure everyone has tried at least once. If you guessed energy drinks, you are correct. Today, we are talking about energy drink safety.
As with anything we discuss that is food safety related, I am not here to knock anyone’s eating or drinking preferences. I simply want us to have the best information we can and make our own decisions. With that being said, I want us to take a closer look at energy drinks: what they are made of, what can they do to the body, and then ask the hard question: should we be drinking them?
Even though the ingredients are listed on the can/package, there are a lot of big words in there. And without a lot of digging, some of those ingredients are hard to understand. Let’s take the time here to break down the ones that could be questionable or at least odd. While this is not everything contained in an energy drink because there are so many on the market, this is a list of the most popular ingredients.
Coffee has been around for centuries but the caffeine in it was not discovered until 1819. Today, we are hard pressed to find something caffeine isn’t in. For the most part, the level of caffeine in drinks is minimal, except for energy drinks.
For reference, a can of cola has about 34mg of caffeine. A cup of coffee has a little over 100mg in an 8oz cup. Energy drinks can have as much as 200mg! That is a lot of caffeine my friends.
While caffeine can give you a quick burst of energy, too much will crash you hard, leaving you feeling tired and drained. Health issues are also a factor: digestive issues, nausea, dehydration, and withdrawals.
The amount of reports on the dangers of sugar substitutes would fill a large library and take you more time than we have to read them all. It is a safe bet to just say they are dangerous. If you want to get caught up on a few of those articles check here and here.
Some energy drinks can contain up to 62 grams of sugar. Go to your kitchen, take out a teaspoon, and measure out 15 1/2 spoonfuls. This is about the same as 62 grams. I actually did this and was amazed at how much sugar that really is.
Too much sugar intake can lead to obesity, diabetes, and the feeling like you are “crashing” when the sugar wears off. None of these can lead to a healthy lifestyle.
Taurine is a word thrown around a lot these days; unfortunately, there is still a lot of research needing to be done. Understanding the long-term effects have only been studied for a few years now, it takes time to do this type of research.
Taurine is an amino acid that helps neurological development and helps regulate minerals in the blood. Already made in the body, Taurine is a part of our daily lives. The human body is an amazing machine and knows what levels of chemicals we need. Taurine can regulate the heart, lower cholesterol, and improve oxygen to blood ratios.
Too much Taurine though, can lead to extremely low blood pressure and long-term kidney problems. Some researchers suggest it can counter the effects of caffeine causing the feeling of being unsatisfied which leads to consuming more.
Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, and Guarani
These three substances are pretty safe on their own. I linked them together because they are all natural and safe on their own. It is when they are combined with caffeine and sugar they become dangerous.
As with most of the other ingredients in energy drinks, these three are being studied but research takes time. The hardest research to come by is again long-term studies due to these types of drinks being new. It is important to remember to not jump to conclusions and listen to everything you read. While one report will tell you there is no data to support dangers, another one will.
When combined with large amounts of sugar and caffeine, as in energy drinks, can lead to: kidney failure, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, fatigue, and dehydration.
My friend told me a few weeks ago that he drank two energy drinks after he got to work. This was after his morning coffee mind you. Then, after lunch, he would feel sluggish and tired so he would drink a third. After our talk, I showed him some of the more sound research and we talked about the dangers. He has cut back to one in the afternoon even though it took him about a week of headaches to do it.
Each of us has a responsibility to make the right decisions when it comes to our eating and drinking habits. There are certain foods we know that can cause allergic reactions, certain foods that if cooked or kept improperly can lead to food poisoning, and certain practices which can lead to other illnesses concerning food. What we shouldn’t have to be worried about are foods that are packaged as safe.
Taking the time to research energy drinks and the effects on our bodies will lead you to making a healthy decision. When you take a look at all of the possible side effects together: kidney, heart, sleep, blood pressure, and caffeine with drawls; the choice is simple.
The next time you think about having an energy drink, make sure you have done the research. If you still decide to drink them, I have one last piece of advice: everything in moderation.
Time will tell if there will be long-term issues associated with energy drinks. Until that time, we need to consider listening to those doing this short-term research. At the end of the day, it is your safety we care about.
By: Dwight Spencer, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)