Thursday, October 2, 2008

Should energy drinks be regulated?

image: Rockstar

Most of us know the effects of caffeine on our bodies and minds, both physically and mentally, but what about the rest of general population?

In the last few years, energy drinks, like Red Bull and Rockstar
have become increasingly popular. Sales on these type of products are estimated in the billions which seems comparable to the diet industry. And they don't look to be stopping any time soon with an annual increase of 55%.

These energy drinks have anywhere from 50mg to over 500mg of caffeine per container. A standard brewed coffee of 6 oz. has 80mg to 150mg and a 12 oz. soft drink 35 mg. Some researchers feel that these drinks need labels of not only the caffeine content but also warnings of the possible effects of caffeine intoxication, something a lot of people have never heard of or even considered.

One study with 469 college age students, an often targeted audience for these energy drink advertisers, showed that 51% consumed an energy drink in the last week and about a third had weekly "jolt and crash" episodes. Another 19% experienced heart palpitations. And even scarier than that, almost a third of the students mixed energy drinks and alcohol in the last month!

Another worry among this population is the relationship between energy drinks and the abuse of non-medical prescription drugs.

As worrisome as that is (and it is), another group, caffeinated moms, are increasing their caffeine consumption, including different forms of energy drinks. One mom said,
"I need about four energy drinks, three cups of coffee and a six-pack of soda every day."

I think in general, we are a very caffeinated society. During high school and college, I heavily relied on caffeine to get through my day. Plus, half the time, I used it as a substitute for a real meal which really doesn't do much when you're trying to study for a test. I probably would have gotten into energy drinks, but I tasted one once, and it was awful!

In the past, I've tried to completely cut out coffee and all caffeinated beverages. I probably could have done it, but honestly, I like the taste and smell of coffee a lot. I do, however, drink decaf most days in the mornings. There is one exception, and that is driving. I have no problem chewing Jolt caffeinated gum if I have to.. That'll likely be the case this Friday when I'm driving long distance.


Cammy said...

I have thought for a long time that caffeine content should be required on the standard nutrition label, I think that if people were able to compare recommended guidelines to what they're actually ingesting, it might show them how insane some of those drinks are. Starbucks does include it in the nutrition information on their website, and a good database for caffeine content in a lot of products (both food and drinks) is

emmy. said...

i completely agree. caffeine is known as a "drug". why not regulate it as such? it should absolutely be on nutrition labels. a lot of people (such as myself) can't even have caffeine and it's in a lot more products than people even realize.

why are they even still using it?? there are so many natural energy boosters. they're called sleeping well and eating protein. maybe people would take better care of their bodies if there wasn't such a quick fix.

i had a girl i worked with (i'm a waitress) who would never make decaf coffee because "people can never tell the difference, anyways." this has little to do with your entry, but it really pissed me off and i thought i'd make a mini rant about it. to bring it back around, i think that just goes to show how little knowledge there is about the true effects caffeine has on the body.

Tiptoe said...

Cammy, that is certainly the hope--that people realize just how much caffeine they are ingesting in a day and the amounts of energy drinks. Thanks for the link. I will check it out.

Emmy, yes, ahh sleep and protein, what concepts. People are just so tuned to wanting that quick fix. It is unfortunate.

As for the other waitress not making decaf, that would piss me off too. And to me, there is a difference between decaf and regular. My body certainly understands that and reacts accordingly. I wonder what she would think if someone asked for decaf, got regular, and then, had a bad reaction from the regular. I think she'd possibly think twice about her service.

KC Elaine said...

I didn't know that mixing energy drinks and alcohol is dangerous - is it? yikes

Anonymous said...

I love an occasional coffee and I drink way too much (diet) soda. I enjoy them and yes, I like the caffeine content, too. That said, my body tells me if I have gone overboard. I almost feel sick and the caffeine actually makes me tired. Moderation is definitely my motto. Compared to the "caffeinated moms," I am on a very low threshold of caffeine consumption. Even one energy drink would send me into hyper-overdrive.

But anyway, I digress. Caffeine *is* a drug and I think it's easy to forget that when so many drinks include it. I don't know if listing caffeine content on nutrition labels would help people or not, but it would be an interesting experiment to see if it did.

Tiptoe said...

Kyla, yes, mixing energy drinks and alcohol is dangerous. It really sends mixed signals to your brain since one is a stimulant, and the other a depressant. Many take the energy drinks to try to override the effects of sedation from alcohol. This can also cause a perception of less impairment then you really are.
Here area few other articles:

Charlynn, it's good you keep a moderation attitude towards caffeine.

I'm not sure if the listing of caffeine content would make a big difference in the grand scheme of things, but I think it's still a good idea in the end.