Are Energy Drinks Healthy?

Energy drinks have become popular, especially among teens and young adults. They are sold at convenience stores, gyms, bars, and dorms. Are they healthy?

Ever since Red Bull was introduced in 1997, the energy drink business has exploded. However, the rising popularity and use of energy drinks has some questioning how healthy they are, and if they are safe.

What is in Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks contain a combination of carbohydrates, caffeine, sugar, and other substances, like taurine and glucoronolactone. Many also contain herbal supplements like ginkgo biloba and ginseng. Taurine is an amino acid found naturally in meat and fish. It is said to improve athletic performance and mental concentration. Glucoronolcatone, proponents claim, fights fatigue. Our bodies produce it when we metabolize glucose. The herbs ginkgo biloba and ginseng may promote mental concentration and alertness. Ginseng may also provide the body with energy.

The claims concerning the benefits of taurine, glucoronolcatone, as well as the herbs ginkgo biloba and ginseng have been demonstrated in some studies, but they remain controversial and disputed by some scientists.

Caffeine Levels in Energy Drinks are not Regulated

Energy drinks also contain caffeine, and the amount in the drinks can vary widely. In a study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, researchers studied the caffeine contents of 10 energy drinks. The levels detected ranged from no caffeine to 141.1mg/serving. Though the FDA limits the amount of caffeine that can be put in cola drinks to 72 mg/12 oz. serving, the FDA does not limit the caffeine content in energy drinks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average 12-ounce serving of coffee has between 143 and 300 mg of caffeine. Many experts agree the amount of caffeine in energy drinks is not always excessive, but it can be. The energy drink Cocaine, for example, has 400 mg/12 oz serving, according to reports in the Boston Globe. Because caffeine can raise blood pressure, increase anxiety and cause insomnia, health advocates urge people to refrain from drinking energy drinks in excess. Children and pregnant women should avoid them.

Watch Sugar Levels in Energy Beverages

Energy drinks can also be high in sugar. A 12-ounce serving of Red Bull has 40.5 grams of sugar. The same serving of Rock Star contains 47.5 grams of sugar. Full Throttle contains 43.5 grams of sugar. Forty grams is equal to about 10 teaspoons of sugar. To avoid excessive weight gain, energy drinks should be consumed in moderation, and a sugar-free option may make sense for some.

How to Choose the Best Energy Drink

The manufacturers of energy drinks claim their beverages increase reaction time, increase mental concentration, stimulate alertness, and improve athletic performance. Though there are some reviews that indicate energy drinks can indeed deliver on these claims, they have been disputed. Be safe when consuming these beverages. Choose an energy drink that is low in sugar and caffeine. Check the labels for herbs and other substances to make sure you don’t consume too much of them, as the effects of consuming them in excess is unknown. In short, drink energy beverages in moderation.

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