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What You Need To Know About Energy Drinks, Shots, and Everything Else

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  January 30, 2013 01:05 PM

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First there were energy drinks, then energy shots, now there is gum and other food items with caffeine added to them.  These products are touted to make you feel more alert and increase your energy level. The question that we all need to ask ourselves is, “have we gone over the energy edge?”  The answer is “yes.”    Here’s what you need to know about these caffeinated products: 

Fact No. 1:  Too Much Can Cause Adverse Effects

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, consuming too much caffeine can cause:

  • An increased heart rate
  • Irregular heart rate and palpitations
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • Diuresis (increased production of urine)
  • Increased level of sugar in the blood (if the caffeinated product, such as an energy drink, is sweetened with sugar)

If you think the above are benign, think again.  A recent government survey uncovered that visits to hospital emergency rooms due to the consumption of energy drinks have increased steadily since 2005 and have doubled from 2007 to 2011:

Fact No. 2:  Kids Shouldn’t Consume Energy Drinks or Shots

According to the Academy of Pediatrics, young children should not consume any caffeinated products.  Adolescents should not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine daily, and adults should not consume more than 500 mg of caffeine daily from all sources.  In addition to energy drinks and shots, soda, ice tea and of course, coffee, contain caffeine.  Unfortunately, many caffeinated products don’t list the amount of caffeine per serving. This table may help:

Source:  JAMA
 Fact No. 3:  Energy Beverages are NOT regulated by the FDA

Because they are designated as “dietary supplements,” these products can side-step FDA regulations.  Also, caffeine may not be the only ingredient you have to worry about.  Some products contain additives such as guarana, a plant that contains caffeine.  Each gram of guarana contains 40 to 80 mg of caffeine.

Fact No. 4:  Alcohol and Energy Beverages are a Bad Combo

Since caffeine acts a stimulant and alcohol acts as a depressant, consuming the two together can make you feel less intoxicated even though your psychomotor skills are impaired.  This not only can perpetuate further drinking but also the false sense of being able to perform skills such as driving or operating other equipment, which can have deadly consequences under the influence of alcohol. 

Fact No. 5:  You Get Energy from Foods

Your body runs on the energy, measured in calories, in the foods and beverages you consume.  While these energy drinks made their debut in the United States in 1997, we must keep in mind that we have been fairly energetic (when we want to be) before these products made their way onto our supermarkets and convenience stores shelves. If you want energy, eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. The side effects are numerous and positive:  you can possibly reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, and developing an expanding waist.   Not bad.

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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