Heart rates and bottlers boom as the energy drink industry is expected to top sales of $9 billion in 2011.
Energy drinks have become the fastest growing beverage market in the U.S., according to the Associated Press earlier this month.
One in three consumers of these is a teen or young adult, which brings a higher level of concern to pediatricians. Media attention to the surrounding health concerns is pushing for more in-depth research on the under-studied product.
In an issue of the University of Miami’s Pediatrics, researchers said, “The known and unknown pharmacology of agents included in such drinks, combined with reports of toxicity, raises concern for potentially serious adverse effects in association with energy-drink use.”
Popular energy drinks such as Red Bull, Rock Star and Monster, often marketed as “energy boosters,” contain stimulants such as caffeine and herbal supplements.
The FDA limits the amount of caffeine in a soda to 71 milligrams per 12-ounce serving. Energy drinks have so far eluded such restrictions, because they are classified as dietary supplements.
Research shows the ingredients in these drinks can boost heart rate, raise blood pressure, cause dehydration, prevention of sleep, anxiety and irritability. In more severe cases, potential harms include heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and sudden death.
In response to criticism, the energy-drink industry has received on serious health threats resulting from overconsumption, companies are saying that the amount of caffeine in their products is comparable to a cup of coffee. An 8.3- ounce can of Red Bull contains 76 milligrams of caffeine, while an 8- ounce cup of coffee can contain between 95 to 200 milligrams of caffeine.
According to Dr. Dean Calsbeek, a kinesiology professor, caffeine could have a severe effect on the body because it is diuretic. “It could, in certain forms, cause dehydration that could cause those symptoms or conditions.”
Caffeine in moderation can provide benefits that include enhanced cognition, attention and physical endurance. Dr. Calsbeek added, “Caffeine can amplify the body’s sympathetic response, such as the fight-or-flight response, our automatic way to respond to certain situations.”
In response to all of the potential harms energy drinks possess, Senior TJ Noble stated, “I do not drink them often, nor do I drink them for the temporary ‘high,’ so I’m not too concerned with my consumption.”
A few other students approve of an occasional liquid boost. “I drink them mostly because I have a late night ahead of me or have a huge athletic competition I need to be energized for,” said Jennifer Vander Veen.
Due to taste preference, Vander Veen enjoys a healthier alternative called XS Energy Drink, only 100 calories, full of vitamins with no carbs or caffeine and minimal sugar.
Whether for an occasional jolt to get through class or athletic kick, Dr. Calsbeek stated, “Caffeine is not an essential nutrient.” Caffeine can provide temporary benefits, but an excess can disrupt the body.