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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Consumer Caution Advised in Energy Drinks

"The energy drink industry claims that their products are safe because they have no more caffeine than a premium coffee-house coffee."
"However, energy drinks also contain a proprietary 'energy blend', which typically consists of stimulants and other additives. Some of these ingredients [including taurine and guarana] have not been FDA-approved as safe in the food supply, and few studies have tested the effects of caffeine consumption together with these 'novelty' ingredients."
"On top of that, energy drinks are highly marketed to adolescent boys in ways that encourage risky behaviour, including rapid and excessive consumption. As a result, emergency room visits by young people in connection with energy drinks are rising."
Dr. Jennifer L. Harris, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, University of Connecticut
The multiple ingredients in different brands of energy drinks need more scrutiny, researchers say.
The multiple ingredients in different brands of energy drinks need more scrutiny, researchers say. (Canadian Press)

Over 500 energy drink products are now on the market; their popularity is manifest by the extent of their sales, and in lock-step with their popularity is the allied phenomenon of increasing visits to hospital emergency centres, and even deaths attributed to their consumption. A 32-ounce container of an energy drink is now being linked with potentially harmful blood pressure and heart function changes beyond alarming and owing not only to the caffeine in those drinks but other key ingredients present in them.

Consumers like energy drinks. And people who convince themselves that anything that is freely available on the market and that suits their lifestyle cannot be a threat to their health, simply will not believe that these drinks indeed can very well pose a threat best avoided. The manufacturers of the energy drinks, after all, attest to their perfect safety, in itself persuading consumers there is no threat to their health in their consumption. But the growing body of evidence appears to firmly point in the opposite direction.

Caffeine up to 400 mg, reflected in the consumption of up to five cups of coffee is considered to be a safe daily dose by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Energy drinks mostly contain caffeine, and plenty of it, but it is the other ingredients in those drinks about which the level of safety is largely unknown, concluded a study team whose results were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

A research team led by Sachin A. Shah of David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base along with the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, set out to compare physical alterations resulting in a group of 18 healthy men and women after they had consumed an energy drink and after another drink with a similar dose of caffeine, lacking any other ingredients had alternately been consumed.

The energy drink given the test subjects contained four ounces of sugar, several B vitamins, and a proprietary 'energy blend' of taurine and other ingredients most often linked to drinks like Monster Energy, Red Bull, and 5-hour Energy. And that energy drink also contained the obligatory 320 mg of caffeine, analogous to what would be contained in four cups of coffee. Alternately another drink was given the participants which held only the 320 mg of caffeine, nothing additional.

The research team then measured the study participants' blood pressure along with measuring heart electrical activity for 24 hours following the consumption of the drinks. Using an electrocardiogram (EKG) for the heart measurement activity, it was discovered that a change identified as QTc prolongation, a condition associated with life-threatening irregularities in the heartbeat, was present post-energy drink consumption, but not after consuming the caffeine beverage.

Blood pressure was seen to increase by about five points after the energy drink was consumed, and in comparison less than a one point increase was noted after the test subjects drank the beverage containing caffeine only. In addition, blood pressure remained in that elevated state for the following six hours. The study points out that healthy individuals are not threatened by these changes, but people with particular heart conditions would do well to exercise caution with these energy drinks.

Just as adolescents are taught to drink alcohol responsibly, they could receive a similar message about energy drinks, pediatricians say. (Jack Dempsey/Associated Press)

"The energy drink amount tested by the U.S. researchers in this study was equal to twice the amount that is permitted to be labelled in Canada for maximum recommended servings per day."
"Health Canada's recommended maximum amounts are based on all of the ingredients of energy drinks, not just the caffeine."
Canadian Beverage Association

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