A mere day after I purchased a twelve pack of the ever popular energy drink known as RedBull (at the very reasonable price of $20 I might add), I stumbled upon an article regarding the safety, or lack thereof, of the numerous energy drinks which we as college students consume on a daily basis. Nearly all of us have heard of at least a few of these so-called FDA approved energy drinks: RedBull, Monster, and Amp are only the tip of the iceberg in the myriad selection that consumers are provided with today. Have you ever actually stopped to look at the ingredients on one of these cans? Caffeine, an all too familiar drug to the Starbucks-sipping adolescents at BU, is surely included, but have you stopped to notice the fifteen other ingredients, including taurine and guarana? What exactly do these ingredients do to our bodies? Are they even safe to consume? According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the answer is NO.
An Unlikely Overdose
The AAPCC reports that in 2007 alone, 5,448 caffeine overdoses were reported, and 46% of these occurred in those younger than 19 years. As many as ONE energy drink can become unsafe for the human body, and consumers should be warned. It is astonishing that there is the possibility that one could indeed overdose on caffeine, but according to doctors, it is a reality. Symptoms of a caffeine overdose include nausea, dizziness, rapid heart rate, and even seizures. These symptoms are even more aggravated in those with diabetes and ADHD, as caffeine may interfere with stimulant medications given to these patients.
Does that RedBull you carry to class really work?
Many of us swear by the positive effects of energy drinks, citing that they allow us to remain awake for class and to concentrate better. It may surprise us to hear that according to doctors, energy drinks actually decrease the attention span of humans in the long term. They also disturb sleep patterns, and put pressure on the heart. As for the ingredients taurine and guarana, the story is different. Taurine has been touted as a performance enhancer allowing one to concentrate better, but doctors have found little scientific evidence to support this claim. As far as guarana is concerned, its seed contains twice as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, but there is little scientific evidence to assert that it is a major player in the energy-providing effects of energy drinks. The major player in an energy drink is caffeine, and as doctors have asserted already, one drink may be too much.
A Public Service Announcement about Caffeine and Alcohol
With the popularity of the RedBull vodka cocktail among college students and adults alike, I thought it may interest those who imbibe to learn what this combination is doing to the body. As disconcerting as it may be to learn that only one energy drink may aggravate the body, it is even more alarming to learn that when combined with alcohol, consumers are unaware of how drunk they really are. According to a research study done at the University of Florida in 2010, the stimulants found in energy drinks do not negate the effects of alcohol, but rather they aggravate them at an alarming rate. In this study, 800 patrons of bars in a college partying area of Florida were interviewed after leaving their respective bars. It was found that 6.5% of people had drunk energy drinks mixed with alcohol, and 6.6% had drunk alcohol and energy drinks separately. The average alcohol reading for those who had consumed alcohol and energy drinks was 0.109, compared with those who had only consumed alcohol at .081. Researchers labeled the phenomenon of combining alcohol with energy drinks with the acronym AMED (alcohol-mixed with-energy drinks). Those who had AMED had drunk longer and were not as conscious of how much they had consumed, as they had been able to remain wide awake and avoid the headache typical of a long night of drinking. This could lead to an unassuming alcohol overdose simply because of the addition of an energy drink.
What Does This Mean For Us?
As you sit in class reading this blog, I wish that you take away a few key points.
1. That energy drink you swear by to help you stay awake in class or study for a final may not actually be helping you all that much. It can disturb your sleep and ultimately impair your attention span in the long run. Perhaps you don’t need this liquid genius to keep yourself motivated to study at 2am on a Wednesday evening.
2. That RedBull vodka that you SWEAR keeps you awake and raging at Tavern in the Square til 2am on a Saturday night, may only be running up your bar tab and making your friends carry you home.
In a nutshell, practice safe RedBulling, which may mean no RedBull at all. Get yourself a good night sleep, and maybe stick with your grande Starbucks coffee during your 8am discussion, not your double RedBull vodka on a Saturday night out.