Forget Oil and Gas, Here's the Real Energy Crisis

by DavalosMcCormack on September 23, 2008

MillerCoors’ plans to start selling Sparks Red, an alcoholic energy drink,  have apparently hit a roadblock. The Attorneys General from 25 states asked the brewing giant to dump the product, calling it a “dangerous drink” because of its 8 percent alcohol content.

But while Sparks Red is being shelved, there are plenty of other non-alcoholic energy drinks on the market, and there are plenty of questions about the health and safety of those. But so far, no calls from any Attorneys General for them to be banned.

Do you ever wonder what our priorities are? Countries like France, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, Uruguay and Iceland have all banned energy drinks such as Red Bull. In the U.S., energy drinks are not only legal, they are heavily marketed to teenagers.

According to the Associated Press around 31 percent of U.S. teenagers drank energy beverages in 2006, and that number is rising every year. Today energy drinks is a $4.8 billion market, one that has grown more than 400 percent since 2003.

But there are serious questions about the safety of these drinks. Dr. Suzanne Steele of the Institute for Good Medicine at the Pennsylvania Medical Society says: “They can often be harmful. Energy drinks contribute to sleep disturbances, obesity, tooth decay and dehydration.”

In Sweden you can only buy energy drinks with a prescription, and Canada requires warning labels on them cautioning their use by children or pregnant women, and warning of combining them with alcohol.

Yet in America, you can chug them to your heart’s content at any age. Well, you may be able to chug them, but probably not at your heart’s content. That’s because a typical energy drink contains three times more caffeine than a can of soda, and sometimes up to ten times as much. Plus many have the equivalent of five teaspoons of sugar.

For instance a 12 ounce can of Coke or Pepsi has around 38 milligrams of caffeine, while the same amount of popular energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster have up to 120 milligrams. And while coffee drinks frequently have more caffeine, they are usually served hot and sipped slowly. In contrast, many teenagers slam energy drinks down quickly, giving a rapid infusion into the system.

That’s not such a good idea. Many studies have linked excessive caffeine to elevated heart rates, hypertension, anxiety, headaches and interrupted sleep. Some drinks have warning labels on them, but most don’t, so the user has no idea they may be doing something potentially dangerous.

A 2007 study by researchers at Wayne State University found that just two energy drinks a day could increase blood pressure and heart rate. Researcher James Kalus, Pharm.D, says for patients with heart disease or other health problems this could be significant, “Energy drinks could affect some individuals if they didn’t know they had a problem in the first place. The study raises some concerns.”

American teens may think they have an energy crisis, but even if they do these drinks are not the solution.

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