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Energy drinks-good or bad

20 years back, when a person was exhausted or when they felt they needed a boost. What did they do? They would’ve had coffee and if they still felt exhausted, it was something a good snooze could solve. Kid’s and youth these days, resort to energy drinks to get that extra oomph when they feel tired or burnt out.

Energy drink composition

So what exactly is in these energy drinks?

The main ingredients of energy drinks are caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone along with other compounds, sugars and minerals.

Lets take a look at what the major ingredients does.

Caffeine: It is a stimulant that stimulated the central nervous system. Ever wondered why coffee improves our mood and boosts our energy levels temporarily? Thanks to caffeine, coffee has always been a friend in need when we feel burnt out. So where do we draw the line in caffeine consumption? How much is too much? Researchers say that, consumption of more that 4 cups of coffee on a regular basis can increase your chances of dying. Do you feel that is a bit of an exaggeration? Well it is not, because caffeine has a lot of effects on our body. That includes raising the blood pressure, causes irritable bowel syndrome, leads to insomnia and even causes heart failure. So in sum, watch your daily caffeine intake.

Taurine: Did you know that taurine is present in our body. It is an amino acid and is found in the brain, heart and muscles. Taurine has anti oxidant properties and is called as the “wonder molecule”. Meat, fish and dairy are good sources of taurine. So why is this taurine added to power drinks? It is because taurine has the ability to remove waste products that lead to fatigue and also makes the muscles work harder. This helps optimise a workout session. In small doses, taurine can be really beneficial for patients diagnosed with heart or kidney failure and even premature infants. However, it can be toxic in higher doses. Though naturally found in animal and dairy products, the taurine found in power drinks is synthetically derived making it perfect for vegans as well.

Glucuronolactone: Glucuronolactone is a compound that is naturally found in bones, tendons and connective tissue as well as in plants (as a gum). It is associated with effect of increasing physical and mental performance. It is used for body building as well. In combination with caffeine and taurine, glucuronolactone has its effects of increasing memory, concentration and even mental fatigue.

Did you know that there are more than 500 types of energy drinks on the market! This is a major factor for an increase in energy-drink-associated emergency room visits and deaths. In the recent years youngsters have resorted mixing energy drinks with booze for tha extra buzz. Mixing drugs and energy drinks are also rampant. These combinations can be lethal. Energy drinks must not be handled lightly. They must definitely be seen in a different light to soft drinks or cola.

Let’s look into some of the implications that energy drinks have on our body

Changes in body as a result of energy drink consumption

Regular energy drink consumption can cause heart, kidney, and dental problems. Continuously resorting to the use of energy drinks to stay ‘up and running’ has other implications. It is also associated with risk seeking behavior that could put ones life in danger.

Some energy drinks contain up to 8 times the caffeine content of that of a cup of coffee. The permitted amount of caffeine intake of an adult is about 400 mg. However indiscriminate use of power drinks or energy drinks can be harmful for younger individuals and children. Such drinks are a strict no-no for pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive.

Energy drinks on boosting confidence and decreasing inhibition

Feeling more drunk than you actually are? Blame it on the energy drink you just had. Researchers found that when youngsters where told an energy drink is mixed in their vodka cocktails, young men felt more intoxicated, daring, and even sexually self-confident! Now this may make you feel that yes, that is what I want. But these could not necessarily be a good thing for you! This is a sort of a placebo effect and can make you feel less inhibited and more daring to take up risky things that you would normally not do when thinking rationally. It could end up putting you in difficult situations some even with lethal ramifications.

Increased consumption of junk food and energy drinks in teens

There is a growing trend among teenagers – junk food and energy drinks. Some kids even go to the extreme of surviving mostly on these. During teen years, those parts of the brain responsible for inhibition and reward signaling are still developing. So when teens survive mostly on junk food and energy drinks, it can affect their decision making ability. It can also lead to poor eating behaviors leading to eating disorders like binge eating. Towards the late teen years, many crucial life decisions, career decisions and choices of higher education need to be made. All these decisions could be affected as a result of the use of energy drinks.

However, there is hope. If your teen is stubborn, like most teens. Rationally talking or advising may not be the right way to go about it. However, getting them hooked onto exercises and sports can give them the advantage of getting some fresh air and also might convince them to get off the sofa.

Insomnia caused by energy drinks

Energy drinks contain very high amounts of caffeine and sugar. They are capable of increasing heart rate, increasing blood sugar and the energy levels in the body giving a temporary rush. A combination of all these have resulted in energy drink users reporting cases of insomnia and fatigue. The increased stimulation sends the body into overdrive and can increase anxiety. It may be very difficult for such individuals to  stay calm in bed and to drift off to sleep. Once asleep, may people have reported difficult staying asleep owing to agitation and even night terrors.

Type 2 Diabetes and energy drinks

Most energy drinks contains upto 6 tablespoons of sugar. High sugar content of energy drinks can impede the body's ability to regulate sugar content as it can wear down the insulin producing abilty of the pancreas.This can cause Type 2 diabetes. 

Increased level of stress hormone

Though energy drinks can temporarily increase the energy levels and leave you feeling less fatigued, a research conducted revealed that energy drinks can cause increased levels of stress hormone in the body. After the energy rush wanes off it can leave the person feeling burnt out, anxious and stressed. Increase in heart palpitations and tachycardia was also associated as side effects of energy drinks.

Top 5 Myths concerning Energy drinks

Let's bust some of the myths surrounding energy drinks and power drinks before you believe they have wings to make you fly. 

#1 Energy drinks are like cola. 

No , no and no. It is absolutely not. Energy drinks contains much higher amounts of caffeine. Making it dangerous in higer quantities.

#2 Taurine present in energy drinks is made from bull semen

Nope. Though taurine is present in meat and dairy, it is synthetic taurine that is present in energy drinks.  This makes it okay for vegan consumption as well.

#3 Mixing energy drinks and alcohol is totally safe

This is one such ignorant fact that has led to a lot of youngsters ending up in  the emergency room.  It may sound like a good idea- to get high and not get sleepy. This can end up in alcohol toxicity.

#4 Energy drinks if used regularly can boost mental performance

This is not true. Regular use of energy drinks can cause serious health issues and even insomnia. Being sleep deprived and  drowning an energy drink is no way to achieve better performance. Energy drinks only give your brain a temporary rush and  does not have any long term performance boost.

#5 Energy drinks are not addictive

While it is obvious that an energy drink does not have any drugs in it, it can still make your body dependent on energy drinks for that extra oomph! So be cautious. Better be safe than sorry.