Are Energy Drinks Safe? (11/20/12)
Are They Safe?
Energy drink manufacturers say yes – absolutely – they’re safe. They have evidence, many studies. Proof.
They may be correct. But it would be best to have independent clinical epidemiologists check the data; outfits like the Cochrane Collective or the National Institute of Medicine should provide impartial reviews.
Why Are People Concerned?
Energy drinks are getting “linked” to multiple deaths and thousands and thousands of ER visits.
Do They Kill People?
Energy drinks include high doses of caffeine with combinations of amino acids, minerals, vitamins, sugar, and other supplements. Chances are very good that different populations – particularly teenagers – are more vulnerable to ill effects.
Why Are Teenagers Vulnerable?
Because 1. Their brains are still developing and changing. Perhaps a third of synaptic connections disappear in puberty. Kids brains’ are rewired rapidly. Energy drinks will change their development in ways presently unknown.2. No one really knows what high dose caffeine with high dose amino acids/other supplements do together in combination. In many of these drinks multiple drugs are added with very different survival characteristics between bottling and usage; many ingredients simply degrade. However, the studies that exist usually look – for short periods – at individual ingredients. Energy drinks may possess several or a dozen or more with unknown synergistic effects. 3. Kids are ingesting far more than energy drinks. They’re using over the counter cold medications, stimulants like methylphenidate and amphetamines for ADD, antidepressants, bath salts that mimic marijuana, booze. Put all that stuff together – particularly when performing punishing athletics – and the chance of sudden death may really go up.
Why Sudden Death?
Because high dose caffeine by itself can cause arrhythmias. The heart is a pump with a beautiful but delicate and complex electrical system. Some kids (and adults) have underlying heart arrhythmias without frequent symptoms – or simply ignore them. If that electrical system – a pearly chain of pacemaking cells around the atria and ventricles – gets too disordered, you die. And you can have a perfectly good pump and go out in a minute.
It’s a horrible feeling on autopsy to see a dead kid and find that “nothing” was wrong with them. Their heart was fine – it just stopped. Just like with any pump, turn off the electricity and it stops working. The heart has no backup. It works or you’re gone.
Plus not all kids have a perfectly good pump.
Why Do People Like Energy Drinks So Much?
Caffeine, sugar, marketing. Consumers of all ages are told they can get “up” quickly and feel “enormous energy.” They’ll feel “the buzz,” experience markedly improved athletic performance – or so they’re told.
Caffeine is a potent drug. Use it in the high doses of energy drinks and you may feel more energized, able to stay up despite chronic sleep deprivation..
It may also wreck your sleep. But you can buy “relaxation drinks” to come down.
A previous generation’s cycle of up with cocaine and down with alcohol can now be replicated – legally – with “up drinks” and “down drinks.” The combination can ruin rest, make people jittery and anxious, shift weight, cognition and judgement and leave people dazed and confused – until they get their next hit.
Is Caffeine Addictive?
Have you looked at Starbucks’ stock capitalization? Caffeine and sugar sell very, very well in virtually every country. Fortunately for us, coffee is a much better source of caffeine than energy drinks.
Why Is Coffee Superior to Energy Drinks?
Because its highly varied ingredients appear healthier than pure, extracted caffeine. Coffee can produce caffeine addiction. Yet in reasonable doses coffee can also decrease risks of diabetes, parkinsonism, perhaps even depression. Its use is often social, convivial, a pleasant part of many cultures. People sit down with their cups of coffee and converse. Energy drinks are often marketed as “shots.” Culturally and psychologically they feel like drugs in ways coffee and tea do not.
Are There Alternatives to Energy Drinks?
People can energize themselves through physical activity. They can get energized by social engagement. They can become energized walking outside, feeling sunlight and experiencing nature. They can feel energized through yoga, meditation, and thousands of rest relaxation techniques. They are more energized after many forms of rest, including proper sleep.
Use your body the way it’s built and you don’t need – or want – the “buzz” of energy drinks. You’ll regenerate normally and naturally generate strength, versatility, and vitality.
That said, over the counter caffeine pills are much cheaper than energy drinks. They don’t include the other “stuff” like amino acids and “super supplements” which may or may not be safe. They can be cut up into small pieces with easily controlling dosing.
And at 20-30 cents for a 200 mg pill, you’ll know what you’re getting and won’t be looking for greenbacks to pay for your energy drink habit.
Energy drinks are commonly used yet their overall health risks are poorly known. What you don’t know can hurt you.
Living right is the best revenge. Coffee, tea, even caffeine pills represent a safer, generally healthier alternative.
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