Energize Without Compromise

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What constitutes an energy drink?

The term “energy drinks” refers to beverages that contain caffeine in combination with other ingredients such as taurine, guarana, and B vitamins, and that claims to provide its consumers with extra energy (1). This term was created by companies in the beverage industry (1) and is not recognized by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Adverse Health Effects

While energy drinks claim to boost energy, their harmful effects far outweigh any benefits the manufacturers may claim. Possible health effects from consumption of energy drinks include:

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: This is a common health effect of continual energy drink consumption and thus can contribute to other serious problems like stroke and cerebral vascular disease. This can eventually lead to much bigger problems. Heart attacks and strokes can occur when energy drinks are abused.

ADDICTION: Caffeine, an ingredient found in energy drinks, is one of the few legal central nervous system stimulants that can be purchased along with nicotine, which is found in cigarettes. Other illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine also belong to this category.

ANXIETY: This is typically a result of the high amounts of caffeine which interfere in neurological activities.

INSOMNIA: When energy drinks are over consumed it can cause people to miss sleep. Because of this lack of sleep, normal activities such as driving suddenly become very dangerous

TYPE 2 DIABETES: The insulin producing cells in the pancreas will slowly degrade and lead to Type 2 Diabetes. This is due to large amounts of sugar that is typically located in most energy drinks

MIGRAINES: This usually occurs when energy drink consumption has been stopped and is a symptom of caffeine withdrawal.

GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS: Energy drinks relax the smooth muscles located in the GI tract which reduce the effectiveness of the digestive process. Problems such as diarrhea become more prominent.

DEHYDRATION: Due to the caffeine being a diuretic, it causes the cells of the body to loose water and reduce the overall water volume in the body. When this happens, a person presents with dehydration.

Common ingredients and their effects

CAFFEINE -Caffeine is by far the most used psychoactive drug in the world and is the only legal psychoactive drug that can be purchased without restriction. It is a phosphodiesterase inhibitor, central nervous system stimulant and is an adenosine and benzodiazepine receptor antagonist. Caffeine causes coronary and cerebral vasoconstriction. Essentially, caffeine causes both the brain and the heart to receive less blood supply. It also can relax many of the smooth muscles in the body such as the esophagus, stomach and the intestines. This is a problem because it can reduce the efficiency of the gastrointestinal system which can lead to problems with digestion and elimination. Caffeine also stimulates skeletal muscle which causes muscle movements such as spasms and twitches.

Caffeine is also a ventilatory stimulant and comes with bronchoprotective properties and anti-inflammatory effects. This means that when large amounts of caffeine are ingested it can increase respirations and can protect the bronchioles from inflammation. In this instance, caffeine actually has a positive health effect. On the other hand, it has been linked to difficulty breathing upon exertion. Instead of making the body faster, increased respirations slow down the body due to the drive to receive oxygen. Again this happens due to caffeine directly affecting the central nervous system.

GUARANA - Guarana is a natural plant extract found in Venezuela and adds an additional 250 milligrams of caffeine in every 3-5 grams of guarana added, making it a frequent ingredient choice of energy drink manufacturers. This allows caffeine’s effects to be amplified in the drink leading to any number of undesirable health effects such as nausea, heart palpitations, tachycardia, insomnia, anxiety and irritability. It is also associated with decreased fatigue, hyperactivity, nervousness, and tremors at these dosages.

GINSENG - Ginseng is another common additive to energy drinks which is intended to improve physical performance, immune response, and have therapeutic qualities. While added only in small doses, the maximum dose of therapeutic ginseng can be reached after just two cans of energy drinks. Manufacturers claim it can improve cognitive abilities, memory, focus, and physical performance. Adverse health effects typically observed with ginseng include insomnia, vaginal bleeding, tachycardia, hypertension, edema, headaches, and mania.

TAURINE - Taurine is another additive and a similar chemical to guarana in that it is believed to amplify the effects of caffeine in addition to relieving muscle fatigue. It is also used in many folk medicines.

BITTER ORANGE - Bitter orange is a mild stimulant generally added to synergize with other stimulants such as guarana and caffeine . Bitter orange’s active chemicals are structurally similar to epinephrine and norepinephrine. Current concerns include whether bitter orange causes additional cardiovascular health risks when combined with other stimulants. It is thought that the combined effects of multiple stimulants with bitter orange is more powerful than each individually. Effects including elevated blood pressure and heart rate have been observed in long intervals after very small doses in individual cases.

Skip the energy drink and get energized with these healthy alternatives

AND THE WINNER IS.....Natalie V.

Thank you all for your participation at the Wellness Fair at Fresno State University!

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Boswell-Smith, V. , Spina, D. , & Page, C. (2006). Phosphodiesterase inhibitors. British Journal of Pharmacology, 147 Suppl 1(S1), S252-S257.

Fredholm, B. (2010). Adenosine receptors as drug targets. Experimental Cell Research, 316(8), 1284-1288.

Rath, M. (2010). Energy drinks: What is all the hype? The dangers of energy drink consumption. Clinical Practice, 70-76.

Seifert, S. , Schaechter, J. , Hershorin, E. , & Lipshultz, S. (2011). Health effects of energy drinks on children, adolescents, and young adults. Pediatrics, 127(3), 511-528.

Sepkowitz, K. (2013). Energy drinks and caffeine-related adverse effects. JAMA : The Journal of the American Medical Association, 309(3), 243-244.