Energy drinks hit the news in a pretty big way this month. After a fair amount of medical consultation, the decision has been made to ban the sale of energy drinks to children within England. Many supermarkets were already reticent to sell the drinks to kids, and the move has generally been hailed as a good thing. Over the past ten years or so, energy drinks have become more and more prevalent. Gone are the days when all you could get was a can of V or Red Bull. The industry has exploded, with more and bigger drinks on offer than ever before. However, sale to children has been banned for a good reason. Energy drinks go to work on your body in a number of different ways, and none of them can be described as positive. We’re going to look at exactly what energy drinks do to your body, so that you can decide for yourself whether they’re the right choice.
Caffeine Dehydration Can Have Major Effects
Naturally, the main ingredients in most energy drinks is caffeine. This is by far their biggest sell, and a major factor in banning the sale to children: there’s no good reason why a child needs access to that much concentrated caffeine. An average (by which we mean small, a regular can of Red Bull) can of energy drink generally contains about as much caffeine as a regular cup of coffee. Caffeine functions as a mild stimulant, convincing your brain that you’re more awake and energetic than you actually are. This is the main draw, whether you drink coffee, tea or energy drinks. However, caffeine is more than just a stimulant. It’s also a fairly effective diuretic. Diuretic are substances that latch onto the water in your body as they pass through your digestive system. They then speed the departure of that water, leaving you dehydrated. Serious dehydration can cause serious damage to your body, and even minor dehydration isn’t great. The result is headaches, tiredness, irritability, and other undesirable results. More than enough to offset the brief burst of energy provided by the drink.
Increased Heart Rate Can Have Long and Short Term Effects
Another effect of the caffeine in energy drinks is an increased heart rate. Anyone who’s had too much coffee is familiar with the feeling, and it’s not a pleasant one. It’s not a healthy one either. Excessive use of energy drinks has been directly linked to cardiac issues, both in teenagers and grown adults. If you’ve got any underlying heart properties, that’s definitely not good news. And even if you haven’t, it’s still more than possible for excessive caffeine use to have serious effects, both short and long term. There have been instances of people collapsing, and occasionally even dying, from cardiac issues related to consuming too much caffeine too soon. And in the long term, excess caffeine use over an extended period of time can contribute to high blood pressure and associated heart issues.
The Ills of Sugar Are Well Documented
That’s just the caffeine. One of the other major ingredients in energy drinks is sugar. The ill effects of sugar on the body are pretty well documented. One of the most obvious issues is tooth decay, something that young people are at particular risk of. Another major factor is obesity. Obesity is swiftly becoming one of the biggest problems, around the world but particularly in developed countries. The huge amount of sugar in fizzy drinks, and the ease with which it can be quickly consumed, poses obvious serious problems. Anyone who’s ever tried to make a fizzy drink themselves knows the insane amount of sugar that goes into the average drink. Sugar doesn’t just contribute to obesity. Excessive sugar consumption, over an extended period of time, means that you develop an increased need for insulin – type 2 diabetes, in other words. This disease is currently the biggest drain on NHS resources, leading to amputations, and potentially death. Given that many single cans of energy drink contain already more than the average RDA of sugar, there’s no such thing as a safe amount of these things to consume.
Constant Use Can Lead to Habituation
The combination of sugar and caffeine can quickly lead to major mood swings. Caffeine, like all stimulants, will leave you more drained than before, once it wears off. And sugar is hardly an effective way of maintaining nutritional levels. Sugar rushes vanish quickly, also leaving you feeling weaker than you were beforehand. The combination of caffeine and sugar means that you’re effectively fueling your body with an extremely short term solution, which wears off fairly quickly. As a result, it’s easy to find yourself experiencing mood swings throughout the day, as you go between the highs and lows of energy drinks. One of the consequences of these ongoing highs and lows can be a gradual addiction to energy drinks, and an increasing tolerance to the highs of both caffeine and sugar. As a result, as time goes on, it’s easy to see your daily intake increase as it takes more and more of the drink for you to start feeling it. As a result, increasing intake leads to increasing negative symptoms as a result of consumption.
Caffeine Is Present in a Range of Different Forms
Ultimately, there’s no way of escaping caffeine in our lives. Whether it’s yerba mate in Brazil, coffee in Ethiopia, tea in England or Red Bull in Thailand, caffeine has travelled around the world and found a place in just about every culture. However, there are few more effective, or easily consumed, ways of getting your caffeine fix than energy drinks. An increase in the range of drinks available, as well as ever growing can sizes, mean that it’s easy to have eyes bigger than your stomach, and find yourself regularly consuming way over the recommended amount. In both long and short term, this has the potential to cause serious problems. And for children, things are even worse. Teachers have pointed out that they’re having serious problems with children drinking multiple cans in a school day, facing class either over energised or on the verge of passing out. Caffeine and sugar have always been marketed to kids, and it’s no coincidence that Coca Cola is the best selling soft drink in the world. But the ever increasing amounts of sugar and caffeine in the energy drinks of today are a serious problem. As an occasional part of a balanced diet, there’s nothing wrong with the odd can of energy drink. But as a part of your daily routine, there’s no doubt that the bad sides outweigh the good.
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