Energy Drink Risks may Outweigh Benefits
Researchers warn that energy drinks carry risks that may outweigh the benefits. Scientists from Nova Southeastern University in Florida say the biggest performance enhancer in energy drinks is the caffeine. Claims that the beverages can help with weight loss are conflicting and may not be a trade-off for caffeine addiction.
According to Stephanie Ballard, PharmD., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Nova Southeastern University’s West Palm Beach campus, energy drinks might even be contributing to the obesity epidemic because of their high sugar content and additional calories, "despite their use for weight loss". She adds, that energy drinks might lead to weight loss, combined with exercise, but the trade off might be that "users become habituated to caffeine".
The Benefits of Energy Drinks
Energy drinks have caffeine, known to boost athletic performance. Ballard says, “Caffeine in amounts of up to 6 mg/kg may produce benefits with low risk of adverse effects." But in the case of energy drinks there is no regulation to the amount of caffeine permissible because they're classified as dietary supplements. For soft drinks the amount of caffeine allowed by the FDA is 71 mg per12 fluid ounces.
Energy drinks can harm health
Too much caffeine can harm health, making overconsumption of energy drinks risky. Insomnia, heart rhythm disturbances, osteoporosis, heart disease, anxiety and miscarriage are all linked to excessive caffeine consumption. Ballard warns, "Energy drinks can contain as much as 505 mg of caffeine in a single container – the equivalent of drinking 14 cans of Coca-Cola." Added to the ill effects from too much caffeine is GI upset or heartburn.
Athletes warned about energy drink doping
Ballard has one final warning about energy drinks: “For the National Collegiate Athletic Association, athletes are considered to be doping if urinary caffeine is greater than 15 µg/mL, which is about the same as drinking eight cups of coffee, each containing 100 mg of caffeine.” Patterns of caffeine misuse are still followed under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s 2009 Monitoring Program. In addition to the health risks, too many energy drinks might get athletes in trouble with governing agencies.
Caffeine does enhance athletic performance, but so does beetroot juice, without the health risks of high caffeine inatke, added calories of energy drinks that may be contributing to the obesity epidemic, and the risk to athletes. Small amounts of caffeine are considered safe, making it important to consume energy drinks in moderation.
The Physician and Sports Medicine: doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.04.1768