Energy Drinks: Lethal or Not?

Experts Question Safety of Energy Drink Consumption by Students

Maria frantically hurries out of her dance practice back to her dorm room.  She has a half an hour to change into her work clothes and head to the metro station in order to catch the early train to be on time for work.   After working a five hour shift, Maria is faced with trying to put the finishing touches on her eight page paper due the next day, and catch up on her required readings. 

On top of having to write a paper and read, Maria has to fit in study time for a geography test that she has to take in the morning.  Dealing with the pressures of attempting to stay awake, Maria simply hopes that she will have enough energy to complete her tasks effectively.  In the midst of such prevalent assignments, she decides to grab a few energy drinks from her roommate’s fridge and feels that she is good to go.

Between extracurricular activities, jobs, homework assignments, and just plain old attending classes, college students everywhere find themselves fighting their own bodies.  College students yearn for the energy and power to simply go to all of their necessary classes.  Beverages that promise a new boost of one’s energy levels, flood the markets today with college students being large supporters of such drinks.  

“Try Red Bull, it gives you wings,” is what the popular energy drink Red Bull promises.

The online service Personal MD talks about how drinking energy drinks such as Red Bull is similar to drinking caffeine.  Energy drinks, like caffeine, work as mild stimulants to the nervous system which produces higher alertness and focused states. 

Sophomore, legal communications major Katrina Harris recalls instances where she turned to an energy drink to keep her self awake. 

“I drink energy drinks those nights where I have loads of work to finish, but my body feels like its fighting against me.”

On the other hand, english major Ashley West-Nesbitt does not see the need in consuming energy drinks.

“If you’re tired then sleep.  Why put something so foreign into your body.”  

Personal MD writes “that most energy drinks contain about 125 calories and 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrates, mostly in sugar and guarana or taurine – guarana being an herb that grows in the Amazon jungles of South America, and taurine being an amino acid abundant in human’s bodies.”

Ephedra is also an ingredient found in energy drinks. 

“When ephedra is used in an energy drink mixed with caffeine, a lethal combination is produced” says Physician Kim Brown of Kaiser Permenente.  She compares energy drinks to ritalin and street speed.  Instead she calls it an “herbal speed” saying that one can become addicted and develop serious health issues.  If someone has heart disease or hypertension, a caffeine/ephedra mix can cause heart attacks or stroke.

Energy drinks produced in today’s market include, Sobe, Pepsi’s Adrenaline Rush, Hype, Rockstar, Coca Cola’s KMS, Red Bull, and Anheurserbusch’s 180.  The most popular energy drink today is Red Bull as it consumes 70 percent of the sale of energy drinks.  That is equivalent to $150 million of the $57 billion market for soft drinks in the U. S according to Bloomberg News. 

Cans cost $2-$3 in stores and $4-$7 in bars and clubs.  Red Bull does not contain ephedra, but an 8.3 ounce can of Red Bull does have 80mg of caffeine according to the National Soft Drink Association.   

The Journal of American Dietetic Association recommends that anyone with diabetes stay away from energy drinks because they ultimately cause dehydration like many other soft drinks. Instead of using an energy drink to conjure up energy, the Journal of American Dietetic Association believes that if a student feels feeble, then he or she needs to drink more glasses of water a day. 

Dr. Timothy Horita from Kaiser Permanente also warns that in drinking energy drinks “all you’re getting is a lot of caffeine and concentrated sugars.”  He continues in stating that “there are no benefits compared to the potential harms involved.”