I saw a lady in the market other day, who was giving an energy drink to her 8 or 9 years old son. I hear her saying to her friend “Mustafa becomes cranky if I refuse to give him red bull; it makes him gentleman”. Being a psychologist I spend 5 minutes of my shopping thinking over her words. I am still not sure whether she knew or not what is she giving to her son to make him “gentleman”.  The name given to these drinks, “Energy drinks” is a misnomer. Energy drinks are considered as“cool drinks” or may be healthy too,but the ingredients of energy drinks causes serious health risks if taken excessively especially for children and teenagers. Whereas Half of the energy-drink market consists of children (_12 years old), adolescents (12–18 years old), and young adults (19 –25 years old), which should be a concern for everyone.

Energy drinks are beverages that contain caffeine, taurine, vitamins, and sugar or sweeteners and are marketed to improve energy, stamina, athletic performance, and concentration. Most popular energy drinks in Pakistan are: Red Bull Sugar free, Monster Assault, 5-hour Energy, Von Dutch and Rockstar. MDX. Some can contain as much as 300 mg. of caffeine. One cup of coffee contains approx. 80 mg. of caffeine. The danger lies with mixing taurine, and caffeine. One popular brand has been banned in Norway, Uruguay, and Denmark. One study found that by drinking just one can of the sugar free substance; it increased the stickiness of the blood, and raised the potential of blood clots. In Canada one popular drink is allowed to be sold but with a warning label: “Not recommended for children, pregnant  or breastfeeding women, caffeine sensitive persons, or to be mixed with alcohol. Do not consume more than 500 ml a day.” DrIrfanZafar says, “Children should never drink high-octane energy drinks and rarely need to drink sports drinks. Potential health problems associated with intake of sweetened, energy or fizzy drinks include overweight or obesity attributable to additional calories in the diet, displacement of milk consumption, resulting in calcium deficiency with a risk of osteoporosis and fractures and dental caries and potential enamel erosion.”

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of 13 deaths linked to 5-Hour Energy, an energy drink. The drinks contain about 215 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. The most prominent health risk attach to these drinks are:

Heart problems

In recent years an energy drink’s brand filed about 30 reports with the FDA of serious injuries associated with its products, including heart attacks, according to the New York Times story. High amount of Caffeine can cause heart cells to release calcium, which may affect heartbeat, leading to arrhythmia.

An increased risk of alcohol injury and dependence

Studies suggest that combining alcohol and energy drinks can be dangerous. Although caffeine is a stimulant, research suggests it does not “counteract” the sedating effects of alcohol. There is concern that mixing alcohol and energy drinks may keep people awake for a longer period of time, allowing them to consume more alcohol than they ordinarily would.

Risk of drug abuse

Another study of 1,060 students found that energy drink consumption in the second year of college was associated with an increased risk of prescription drug abuse (use of stimulants or prescription painkillers without a prescription) in the third year of college.

Impaired cognition

Although some students rely on energy drinks to pull all-nighters to study for exams, there’s some evidence that the excessive levels of caffeine in the drinks impair cognition. A small 2010 study found that drinking moderate amounts of caffeine, about 40 mg, improved performance on a test of reaction time, but drinking higher amounts — equivalent to the levels found in a (250 ml) can of Red Bull, or 80 mg — worsened performance on the reaction test..

Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated. ONE is witness to many beverages companies selling energy drinks at schools and universities across the country. Healthcare professionals, school officials and parents need to become well-informed about the health implications of vended energy and fizzy drinks in schools and universities. The western world has already put in place regulations where only healthy drinks and juices are allowed to be made available in the educational institutions. There is a need to implement clearly defined, countrywide policy that restricts the sale of such drinks thus safeguarding against health problems.

References:

Sara M. Seifert

Denise Mann

Anna Edney

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