Energy Drinks ‘a cause for concern” Among Teens

by Brad Shulkin

It is just around fifth period when the two cans of Red Bull you drank last period catch up with your body. While trying to read this article, you are anxious and jittery, while a blistering headache makes the room go round and round. It isn’t until the full process of emission is complete that all the caffeine will be flushed out of your body, resulting in a worse feeling for the imbiber than before the can was consumed.

Teenagers consume energy drinks and caffeinated beverages with the desire to get that “buzz” of energy throughout the body.  Michael Christian, Medical Toxicology Fellow at North Shore University Health System, said that the feeling of danger and being on the edge is what makes energy drinks so appealing.

Youth-targeted marketing strategies have been aimed towards teenagers willing to experiment and try new things. By giving teens a legal product that stimulates the body, Joelle Rabion, Health and Wellness Consultant at Good Food, Better Life, said that the effects are more likely to sway teens into drinking energy products, as opposed to Coke or Sprite.

The ingredient found in energy drinks that causes the increased alertness is caffeine. In some cases, these beverages contain three times the amount of caffeine contained in carbonated sodas. For instance, Spike Shooter Energy drinks contain 300 milligrams (mg) per 8.4 ounces, whereas a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola Zero contains 35 mg of caffeine.

“What is most concerning about energy drinks is the 50 to 500 milligrams of caffeine found in them,” Christian said. “It all depends on the person’s health to know how much they can or can’t drink.”

When used in moderation, energy drinks can help jump-start the day with the feeling of being alert and focused. But when the craving to consume these drinks hits, the over consumption and regular use of energy drinks causes the body to become accustomed to its regular use.

After drinking between 150 and 200 mg/kg, the reported lethal dose of caffeine the body can hold at anyone time, symptoms of nervousness, nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, confusion, seizures and possibly death can occur.

“Caffeine is an addictive substance,” Rabion said. “The body believes that you really need it and just like that, you’re hooked.”

The problem is many people perceive substances as ubiquitous as caffeine as being safe. With energy drinks not being labeled about what is really in them, Kimberly Caldeira, Associate Director at the Center on Young Adult Health and Development, said that it is not possible for consumers to regulate how much caffeine intake if they don’t know how much is in the drinks. It is very deceptive.

In the United States, energy drinks with varying amounts of sugar and caffeine are sold over the counter among food and beverage products. In other countries around the world, precautions have been put into place to prevent overconsumption and to regulate the amount of caffeine consumed daily.

“Instead of just banning them entirely, I would inform people of the negative effects of the drinks,” Rabion said. “People have the ability to make their own decisions.”

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