If you look at beverage-related news, you’ll frequently see questions arising about the rising use of energy drinks, particularly by children and teenagers. Given that the energy drink market has increased by over 75 percent in the past year, and the non-energy carbonated drink market has actually declined for the first time in 20 years, it’s clear that more and more people are consuming these beverages, which raises questions both for those who enjoy energy drinks and for parents of kids or teens who may be fans of Red Bull, Rockstar, Jolt, or one of many others.
As you likely know, energy drinks are typically a cocktail of sugars, caffeine, amino acids and herbal supplements such as ginseng and gurana. They aren’t to be confused with something like Gatorade, which is intended as a fluid replacement and to help replenish an athlete’s electrolytes. Energy drinks on the other hand are intended for a short-term burst of energy and alertness, the “caffeine rush” that has fuelled many programmers, truck drivers, and college students working late into the night or beyond their accustomed sleep schedule.
Some health professionals express concern at the fact that the effects of caffeine on young people are not as well known as its effects on adults, as well as the fact that clinical studies of some of the exotic ingredients such as ginseng, gurana, and taurine are sorely lacking. Others point out that their only major concern is that people recognize the potential of these drinks and make use of them in moderation – in fact, many of the manufacturers of these drinks indicate on their packaging that they are not intended as fluid replacements and that there is a maximum advisable consumption per day. However, the American Food and Drug Administration has given caffeine a GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) rating, and it does not specify a maximum allowable daily intake of these types of beverages.
The general consensus is that energy drinks are not health drinks, but that they pose no threat to a healthy adult when consumed in moderation. Since so little is known about caffeine’s effects on children, the simple comparison is to coffee – 1-2 cups of coffee per day represent a caffeine intake no greater than that present 1-2 of most leading energy drinks – if you’re concerned about your son or daughter’s intake of energy drinks, examine the ingredients and ensure that they understand the type of beverage that they are drinking, but be sure to compare it to their (or your) present coffee intake in making any decisions.
Excessive caffeine intake is generally believed to be undesirable but clinical studies have shown effects ranging from no harm to demonstrable positive effects on circulation, metabolism, and mental alertness. As with any food or drink, it is most important for an individual to know their own body and their own limits. Energy drinks can be a perfectly healthy alternative to coffee or other caffeinated beverages, but it’s very important to take care of your body and consume a proper diet – many energy drinks do feel magical, but the manufacturers agree that they are no substitute for proper exercise, rest and good nutrition.