To a certain extent, the prevalent confusion about energy drinks, their effects on our body in particular, can be attributed to our lack of knowledge about ingredients used in them.
According to Euromonitor, a renowned market research firm, the worth of energy drinks industry has catapulted from $3.8 billion in 1999 to $27.5 billion in 2013.
Despite the odds, the energy drinks industry has grown manifold over the last decade. In 2013, Red Bull was the best-selling energy drink in the United States, making an impressive $3,433 million in sales―up from $2,950 million the company made in 2012. Coming a close second was Monster, making $3,147 million in sales―up from $2,600 million they made the previous year. Together, Red Bull and Monster had a market share of 82 percent in 2013. Then there were other players in the market like Rockstar, NOS, Full Throttle, and Amp; each having a significant market share.
Energy Drinks: Facts and Myths
Energy drinks are nonalcoholic beverages that―if the manufacturers are to be believed―boost energy by combining ingredients like caffeine and herbal supplements, instead of depending entirely on calories for the same. Most of the reviews speak about their benefits for our body. Their ill-effects though, are seldom highlighted. Rarely do we come across a neutral product review which highlights the positives and negatives of these beverages, thus making consumers aware of their health benefits and health hazards.
What Do They Contain?
The most common ingredients that energy drinks contain are caffeine, taurine, maltodextrin, guarana, ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, carbonated water, and creatine. They play a crucial role in various activities of our body. Of all these ingredients, caffeine―a stimulant which is also found in tea and coffee―is the most important. As far as the caffeine content of energy drinks is concerned, it can range anywhere between 80 – 300 mg per 16 oz. serving. Being a stimulant, it basically stimulates our nervous system. Taurine, on the other hand, helps in regulating the heart rate and muscle contraction. Some of these drinks also contain sugar and artificial sweeteners which are added to improve their taste.
How Do These Drinks Work?
Like we said earlier, it’s all about the ingredients in them. When we consume energy drinks, the caffeine content in them counters the effects of adenosine in the body and speeds up neuron activity in the brain. This instigates the pituitary gland to release adrenaline as a part of the body’s fight or flight response. Adrenaline release increases heartbeat and prompts the liver to release extra sugar in the bloodstream, thus producing more energy.
Taurine is naturally produced in our body. When we resort to strenuous physical activity, the taurine levels in our body fall by a significant extent. In such circumstances, when we drink energy drinks, the taurine in them replenishes taurine levels in our body and makes us feel energized. Like caffeine and taurine, even other ingredients that are used in making these beverages promote alertness, relieve stress, increase endurance, and so on.
What About Their Health Concerns?
Like benefits, even the side effects of energy drinks are actually the side effects of various ingredients which are used to make them. Studies have time and again proved that caffeine is hazardous for our health. In excessive amount, it can result in a range of health issues, including insomnia, headache, and high blood pressure. Our chances of suffering from these side effects increase when we drink energy drinks in large quantities. Some studies also reveal that these drinks tend to dehydrate our body, instead of hydrating it.
Other side effects that one may face include tachycardia (increased heart rate), chest pain, gastrointestinal problems, etc. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), a part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), reported that the number of emergency department (ED) visits related to energy drinks consumption doubled in the 2007 – 2011 period from 10,068 to 20,783.
If we have energy drinks with alcohol, it can have adverse effects on our body and mind, as they are stimulants, while alcohol is a depressant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who have energy drinks with alcohol are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix the two.
While the manufacturers claim that their products help in improving the endurance levels and performance of individuals, health experts seem least impressed. According to them, the temporary boost that these beverages boast of, is attributed to the presence of caffeine and sugar in it.
All the sugar and twice the caffeine. The slogan of now-defunct Jolt Cola pretty much sums up everything about these beverages.