Why energy-boosting drinks are harmful


Although energy drinks have been around since the mid-eighties, their target audience has gradually shifted to the young. Through clever marketing and branding with youth activities, most of these body-boosting drink companies are making themselves part of the daily diet of many young Saudis and expatriates.

They are found in the drink’s section of supermarkets everywhere; most come with exotic names and in eye-catching containers. But are these drinks, which are primarily targeting our youth, harmful in the long run? Should parents and schools not sit up and take notice?

Take the case of one such popular energy drink sold in our supermarkets and consumed on a daily basis by many of our young. It could be fatal. It was initially created to stimulate the brains in people who are subjected to great physical force and under undue stress but eventually found itself on the same shelf as soda pops and fruit juices.

This energizer drink is marketed around the world with the promise that it increases physical endurance and sharpens mental activity. It also promises to boost energy and improve one’s mood. It is primarily targeted at young people and sportsmen, two selective segments that have been captivated by the stimulus that the drink provides.

The liquid is based on a formula that contains a high concentration of caffeine and taurine and sugar, guaranteed to send young hearts and minds fluttering into outer space. While most of us know the effects of excessive caffeine and sugar, the long-term effects of taurine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body are still under study.

This particular drink has been termed in France and Denmark as a “cocktail of death” and is prohibited for sale there including in Malaysia, due to its ingredients supplemented with glucuronolactone, a naturally occurring metabolite which is in high concentration in the drink, reportedly up to 250 times the daily requirement.

Such drinks, promoted as healthy, fun and youthful, find many children, young people and adults taken in by the excitement created around them, and they believe the claims of the manufacturers to be true. However, the evidence shows that it may be wise to be cautious in our consumption of energy drinks.

Caffeine, taurine, and glucuronolactone occur naturally in the body, but the fact that they are present in much higher doses in energy drinks may be cause for concern. Scientists say that caffeine can have an effect on the growing brain and that it may cause a decline in the body’s immune system.

There have been several studies by the medical profession that indicate that:

1. It could be dangerous to take such drinks if you do not engage in physical exercise afterward since their energizing function accelerates the heart rate and can cause a sudden attack.

2. You run the risk of undergoing cerebral hemorrhage because such drinks contain components that dilute the blood so that the heart utilizes less energy to pump the blood, and thus is able to deliver physical force with less effort being exerted.

3. It is prohibited to mix such drinks with alcohol, because the mixture turns the drink into a “deadly missile” that attacks the liver directly, causing the affected area to degenerate permanently.

4. The regular consumption of such drinks among the young could trigger symptoms in the form of a series of irreversible nervous and neuronal diseases.

Excess consumption of energy drinks usually induces mild to moderate euphoria primarily caused by the stimulant properties of caffeine, but also leads to agitation, anxiety, irritability and insomnia.

In conclusion, parents should absolutely forbid the consumption of such drinks by their young children, as long-term effects are yet to be fully understood. For a quick zap of energy, a glass of fresh orange juice or a banana has proven to be a far better and safer alternative.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena