Doug Robinson: No (red) bull, energy drinks a problem

Published: Monday, Feb. 20 2012 10:19 p.m. MST

A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association warned of the potential dangers of energy drinks and caffeine's "propensity for addiction."

Mike Terry, Deseret News

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Look at me, I just drained an energy drink and now I am writing so fast I can't even stop for punctuation and sometimes not even thespacebar whoooa I hope you can keep up with me to the end of this paragraph whichiswhen I plan to plant a period at the end of this runawaysentence and then jog a fewlaps around theoffice to burnoff this littlebuzz because I am like the guy in the TV commercial who is yawning and barely able to stay awake at his desk so he guzzles an energy drink and presto he is like Cosmo Kramer on cafe latte and he's able to zip through the rest of his day being highly productive and for all we know he was promoted to CEO because he is so energetic Now about those laps.

It turns out that "energy" drinks — and there are no shortage of them: 5-hour Energy Drink, Monster, Rockstar, Redline, Jolt, Spike Shooter, Cocaine Energy Drink, 24/7, Amazon, Full Throttle, Nos, Red Bull, etc., etc., etc., — are not really energy drinks at all; they're drugs. More specifically, caffeine, with a side order of taurine, which amplifies the caffeine kick in a lot of "energy" drinks, plus a sprinkling of vitamins to make everybody feel better about it.

Adults consume these drinks at work. Teens drink them between classes. Jocks down a bottle before games. Energy drinks are a multibillion-dollar industry. Throw in Starbucks cafe lattes, McDonald's cafe mocha ice, No-Doz, Cokes, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, etc., and you've got America: Caffeine Nation.

It says something about the state of affairs that we have iPhones and BlackBerries and GPS and Wikipedia and iPads and cellphones and laptops and day planners and computers and cars that talk to us, all so we can get more done faster — and yet we still feel so harried that we have to get our caffeine fix to get through the day.

How about mixing in a little sleep somewhere in the day planner? We don't need to speed up — we need to slow down.

What next, a caffeine inhaler? Actually, yes, now that I mention it. There's a new product called AeroShot, which enables people to inhale their caffeine from a small tube. It was introduced to the public last month in Massachusetts and New York. For $2.99 you get 100 milligrams of caffeine powder — plus B vitamins! Each container holds about six "hits."

I wonder when we'll be able to sprinkle caffeine on our cereal, like sugar.

Or maybe they'll create a nice caffeine soup with vegetables, only hold the vegetables.

These drinks can't be good for us, right? Well, I'm no Ph.D., but Susan Fullmer is. She's also a professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science at Brigham Young University.

"First of all, it drives me nuts that they call them energy drinks," she begins. "In nutrition, energy is synonymous with calories. That comes from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They're not getting energy from calories; they're getting a buzz from stimulants ... It's a drug boost and then a crash. Food wouldn't give them that kind of response."

Energy drinks are the dumbest food fad since the Atkins Diet.

Fullmer calls them "clearly addicting," and notes they have an increased tolerance, meaning that over time more and more of the drink will be required to get the same "energy" boost.

In December, the Chicago Tribune reported that emergency room visits involving energy drinks have risen tenfold in the U.S. since 2005. Many of the visits were the result of combining energy drinks with alcohol or drugs, but 56 percent were due to the consumption of energy drinks alone.

"The kids are coming in with heart palpitations, lightheadedness, dizziness, feeling faint and headaches," one doctor reported.

Spike Shooter, with six times the caffeine of Coke Classic, has been banned from 7-Eleven and from at least one high school. Pediatrics, a medical journal, wants the energy drinks to be monitored like tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association warned of the potential dangers of energy drinks and caffeine's "propensity for addiction." After noting that the maximum allowable caffeine limit set by the FDA for cola drinks is 0.02 percent, or 71 mg per 12-oz serving, JAMA wrote, "It is unclear why this limit does not apply to energy drinks; some claim that because energy drinks contain herbal extracts and some vitamins, they are not subject to the same caffeine limit."

Which is idiotic and ironic. Many of these drinks attempt to market themselves as healthy beverages by adding vitamins, but those additives actually increase the health risks. As Fullmer notes, the dosages for vitamins in the energy drinks are so high that consumers can easily exceed the recommended limits simply by consuming them in other foods or by having a second energy drink.

One woman showed up in an emergency room with abdominal pain, nausea, fever and jaundiced. Doctors determined that by drinking 5-Hour Energy Drink excessively she had overdosed on niacin (vitamin B3) which can damage the liver.

By the way, she drank 10 bottles a day for two weeks.

These drinks don't do anything for stupidity.

email: drob@desnews.com

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