Energy drinks – helpful or hindering?

By Crystal Branden
brandencr@mnstate.edu

Energy drinks:  a beverage consumed by college students everywhere. For students, caffeine is a way of life. Whether it’s coffee, energy drinks or soda, caffeine is always present.
The recommended amount of caffeine for adults is up to 400 mg per day. When compared to other caffeinated beverages, 400 mg is equivalent to roughly ten cans of cola, four cups of brewed coffee or two energy drinks.
So, if we plan to drink a plain cup of coffee in the morning, two cups of soda at meals and an energy drink while studying in the evening, the total is just shy of 400 mg of caffeine. Add on the common occurrence of drinking something between meals, and we exceed the healthy limit.
At 500 mg to 600 mg a day, side effects like insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, muscle tremors and an elevated heartbeat can become side effects. Caffeine toxicity, which takes place after 500 mg of caffeine in a day, includes headaches, tremors, heart palpitations and nausea.
Energy drinks not only raise the level of caffeine in the body, but it also dehydrates it. Dehydration can cause important brain functions to go haywire. Dehydration can also alter the mood and, get this, make you feel tired. The brain is extremely sensitive to even small changes to your body level of ions. A study on teenagers by Harris Lieberman, Ph.D., a scientist with the U.S. Army, found that, when dehydrated, teens’ brains work harder to function normally.
In addition to energy drinks elevating the heart rate, which can lead to many health problems, they are also counter-productive to the problems for which it is marketed. Dehydration alters memory, learning and alertness. Energy drinks dehydrate the body and caffinate it; they will wake you up, but it will not be much of an improvement – especially when our bodies are becoming less and less affected by caffeine.
As opposed to coffee and soda, energy drinks are a fairly new concept. Because energy-drink manufacturers are not required to list the amount of caffeine in their products, it can be hard to know how much is too much. For around $3, you can purchase a 24 fl. oz. can of Monster that contains 240 mg, over half of the daily recommended maximum.
You hear all the time that energy drinks are bad for you, but not a lot of people take information like this to heart. Unless you know the facts, people are most likely to carry on their bad habits.
Generally, people are not extremely cautious about what they put in their bodies, but it is extremely important to understand what caffeine can do.
In a University of Southern California study, it was found that between 2007 and 2011 energy-drink related emergency room visits doubled from about 10,000 to nearly 21,000 visits.
In a group of randomly sampled emergency room patients, around one third had had adverse reactions to drinking energy drinks. The Food and Drug Administration also received reports of at least 15 deaths related to energy drinks.
Although these numbers are not as alarming as the annual 6,000 deaths due to texting while driving, caffeine consumption is an important subject to keep in mind. With the counter-productive effects they have on the body, one should be careful before choosing to use energy drinks to “boost” tired moments in life.

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