In focus Energy drinks are not always energetic
W ith widespread alarm about deaths linked to alcohol-and-caffeine-laced commercial drinks , it's easy to overlook problems that may be linked to the so-called energy drinks that spawned them. But a number of scientists are worried about highly caffeinated beverages that are popular among teenagers and young adults.
The often bizarre combination of ingredients in these drinks prompted three researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the University of Queensland in Australia to examine about the contents of these beverages, which are sold alongside sodas and sport drinks in supermarkets, drugstores and highway rest stops.
The researchers noted that the drinks contain high levels of caffeine and warned that certain susceptible people risk dangerous, even life-threatening, effects on blood pressure heart rate and brain function.
The authors noted that “four documented cases of caffeine-associated death have been reported, as well as five separate cases of seizures associated with consumption of energy/power drinks.”
Additional reports include a healthy 28-year-old man who suffered a cardiac arrest after a day of motocross racing; a healthy 18-year-old man who died playing basketball after drinking two cans of one energy drink; and four cases of mania experienced by individuals known to have bipolar disorder.
The caffeine and caffeinelike ingredients in these drinks can mask the perception of inebriation — and that can increase the risk of drunken driving or other dangerous behaviors.
For an athlete engaged in intense exercise, the high doses of sugar in energy drinks can impair absorption of fluids and result in dehydration.
Caffeine, which is known to improve muscle action and performance, especially in endurance activities, is banned in many sports competitions.
Thus, consuming an energy drink close to an event could disqualify an athlete. Other ingredients often found in energy drinks include taurine, glucuronolactone, B vitamins ginseng, guarana, ginkgo biloba and milk thistle.