The problems with energy drinks are two-fold.
1) These drinks are formulated and marketed to appeal to the rebellious nature of youth. Health value is usually not a consideration, except to avoid lawsuits. Profit margin and image are the big drivers in deciding what goes into these products.
2) Because health is not why most of these drinks are sold, all the worst aspects of the American/International beverage business are exaggerated. Sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup, is arguably the single most detrimental factor that has led to the surge in obesity rates over the past 35 years(1). High levels of sugar are unhealthy and have no place in any product designed to produce a long-term boost in energy. Nevertheless, sugar is a major ingredient in most of these drinks to cater to the tastes of juveniles.
The other dangerous element in most energy drinks is anhydrous caffeine, sometimes in combination with other stimulants.
A lot of noise has been made about some of the other unfamiliar ingredients in these beverages, but a little reading of the actual scientific research done on these substances will reveal they are innocuous at the levels found in these drinks.
Sugar and caffeine are commonly consumed daily by most of the population, not only in the United States, but around the world.
In fact, most energy drinks only contain as much caffeine as a cup of strong coffee. So, what’s the problem?
One problem with caffeine for youths is that it interferes with sleep, which growing young people need. Unsupervised energy drink use with friends in the evening can lead to inability to sleep and poor performance in school.
The larger problem is that these beverages, most of which are inherently unhealthy with long-term use due to the sugar content, are advertised directly to young people who naively think that, “If one makes me feel good, three or four will make me feel like a Superhero!” This is where they can get into mortal danger with heart arrhythmia, primarily due to the accumulated caffeine content.
So, to sum up, the major dangers of energy drinks come from poor formulations compounded with the tendency of young people to overdo anything they come in contact with, just to find their limits.
What is a parent to do?
Well, you have a problem on your hands if you have let your child develop a craving for sugar. Trying to reason with a fourteen or fifteen year old is futile unless your child is more reasonable than most. You have a better chance for success if you start very young by controlling what gets consumed in your household.
Teaching your child about caffeine — its uses and the uncomfortable problems it can cause if not handled wisely — is also good insurance against calamity.
There are good reasons for not consuming refined sugars, but most parents here have abdicated their responsibility for choosing what their children will eat to advertisers on TV, radio, in magazines, and on the ‘Net. If you haven’t set the example and got your children on the path of healthy natural nutrition early, then changing their tastes now is going to be tough.
The parent who has the best chance for protecting their child from the dangers that unscrupulous marketers of energy drinks present is the parent who does their research on healthy diet and provides a good example. The earlier you start, the better.
(1) See the video “Sugar, the Bitter Truth” by Dr. Robert Lustig for more background on the dangers of sugar and the root of the obesity/diabetes epidemic.
Paul H. Kemp is an entrepreneur, a writer and amateur athlete. Promoting high-level cycling competitions exposed him to the developing energy drink industry twenty years ago.
For more information on the dangers and the benefits of energy drinks, visit his Web site at http://www.HealthyPlanetDiet.com.
By Paul H Kemp
- See energy drink reviews and ratings at EnergyDrinkOpinions.com.