The Labels on Those Energy Drinks
are Lying to You

August 24th, 2014 by Lee Euler

Now that the world has gotten in the habit of operating 24/7, more and more people are turning to energy drinks instead of respecting the normal need for rest, relaxation, and sleep.

Given the advertising messages that promote these drinks, it’s not surprising. Energy drinks supposedly do it all, from giving you improved endurance and performance to helping you concentrate better to (of course) ramping up your energy.

Yet, a handful of studies show the safety of energy drinks is doubtful, especially given the wide variety of disturbing chemicals they contain. None are directly linked to cancer, but they can disturb your health enough to leave you susceptible to serious disease. I wouldn’t consume these drinks. Read on and I’ll tell you why.

Continued below…

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Undeniable connections to hospitalization and death

First of all, emergency room visits related to energy drinks have spiked in the last couple of years. The popular drink “5-hour Energy” alone has been linked to 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations.

And according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 34 people have died in the United States in the last decade after drinking 5-Hour Energy, Monster, or Rockstar beverages.

These startling revelations have prompted an outcry from politicians and consumers, who (naturally) turned to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to look into possible links between energy drinks and death. The FDA claims they’ve been “studying” the drinks for several years, but continues to drag its feet on taking action.

The greatest danger is for adolescents and young adults because they tend to consume large amounts of these drinks. One study showed as many as half of college students down more than four drinks a month, and many mix energy drinks with alcohol for a long-lived party high. I had no idea these drinks are so popular, but those are facts.

Older folks are probably at increased risk as well, especially if they have certain existing medical conditions.

And, this is pretty telling: Some doctors have labeled energy drinks a “heart attack in a can.” Pretty strong words. So what’s the basis for this charge?

Both energy drinks and heart attacks cause an increase in adrenaline release plus adrenal exhaustion. Which is clearly something that can produce long-term damaging effects to your body, compromise your immune system, and put you at risk for other diseases.

The damaging effects of excessive caffeine

The most common ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine. But, because energy drinks are officially considered a dietary supplement, they don’t fall under the same category of regulation as sodas.

Not that I want the government to tell us what we can and can’t consume. They’ve made a thorough botch of that. But we should look into things ourselves before we eat or drink them.

It turns out that energy drinks often have higher levels of caffeine than their labels indicate. Here’s some perspective on the caffeine issue:

  • A normal cup of coffee – about 6.5 ounces – has between 80 and 120 milligrams of caffeine
    Tea has roughly 50 mg of caffeine
  • A typical, 12-ounce soda cannot have more than 71 mg of caffeine
  • A 16-ounce can of the popular energy drink Red Bull has 154 mg of caffeine
  • An article published by Consumer Reports places the caffeine levels in 5-hour Energy drinks at 215 mg
  • A 24-ounce can of Wired X505 tops all the others with a shocking 505 mg of caffeine

Caffeinated drinks can cause shaking, elevated heart rate, and anxiety. Excessive caffeine has been linked to health problems like high blood pressure, premature birth, and even sudden death.

I don’t think moderate caffeine consumption is harmful, but I will say this: The healthier I’ve become, the less caffeine I need to be alert and energetic. I’ve cut back to practically nothing, because my energy level is now so high, coffee and tea just cause me to sleep poorly.

Here’s a little story for you: I was sitting in a nice café with a friend of mine one afternoon, watching her down a heaping glassful of iced tea. She asked me why I wasn’t having any, and I told her if I have tea or coffee in the afternoon, I can’t sleep that night. A light went on in her head, and she started to avoid these drinks in the afternoon, too. She’s told me she now sleeps much better and she’s thanked me several times for helping her solve the problem.

When it comes to caffeine, energy drinks are in a class by themselves. What’s worse, they often contain much more caffeine than even the figures above suggest. Keep reading…

Other dubious chemicals in energy drinks…

Other common ingredients in most energy drinks include guarana, taurine, ginseng, sugar, B vitamins, and additives. Here’s some background on how they might affect you:

  • Guarana, which is nicknamed Brazilian cocoa, is a plant from South America. It contains a caffeine compound called guaranine. So an energy drink with caffeine and guarana in it really has caffeine plus even more caffeine. In fact, just one gram of guarana equals about 40 mg of caffeine, but this is not factored into the total caffeine tally.
  • Taurine isn’t all that bad, but it’s unknown how good it might be. Taurine is one of the most common acids in your body, and it occurs naturally in milk, seafood, and meat. It supports brain development and regulates water and mineral levels. Some even claim it improves athletic performance. Taurine in an energy drink means you’re getting more of it than you’d get from a regular diet. The effects of long-term consumption are unknown.
  • Ginseng can boost your mood and strengthen your immune system, and some say it can improve athletic performance. Whether or not this is true, there is not enough ginseng in energy drinks to make a difference. I think it’s put in just to make the drink appear healthier, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
  • Then there are the B vitamins, which appear to be included for the same reason as ginseng – “pixie dust” to make the product look healthy. We all know B vitamins are good for you and are essential for a healthy body, and that they fight cancer and heart disease. But there’s not enough in each energy drink to matter.
  • Additional additives in energy drinks include thinks like carnitine, bitter orange, and Yohimbe. There’s an assumption that these things must be safe for ingestion since you can buy them in a drink right off the grocery store shelf. But your caution flag should be up when you read them on any ingredient list. These should be taken only in a known quantity and from a known, reputable source. Yohimbe is a common ingredient in supplements designed to improve male sexual potency. Some adverse side effects have been reported, and it should be used with caution.

And finally. . .increasing numbers of people are noticing sensitivities to artificial colors and flavors. If you’re one of them, energy drinks will probably only make your symptoms worse.

Make you own health-boosting energy drink

There’s a simple way to protect yourself from the health risks of energy drink chemicals: Don’t drink them. Don’t waste your money. Stay far, far away from them.

While there’s not a conclusive link to cancer or other serious diseases – yet, that is – it’s clear many brands in this category bring about adverse effects in your body which likely compromise systems such as immune function. If your immune function is compromised for too long, then your likelihood of falling prey to cancer increases significantly.

I’m not saying you can’t get an energy-boost every now and then – just do it the right way. A friend of mine recommends you can make your own energy drink by combining fresh fruit, yogurt, and honey into a smoothie. Add a handful of pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, or sesame seeds. And you can’t go wrong with a cup of kale or spinach in your smoothie. You won’t be able to taste it, and it’ll extend your energy levels considerably.

Easier to do (and my personal favorite) is to eat a bit of dark chocolate. A small amount gives me a remarkable lift and brings along a number of health benefits besides the energy boost.

Meanwhile, there’s an eating habit that will definitely extend your life, prevent cancer, and help get rid of it if you’ve got it. If you missed this important news in the last issue, you can read it now.


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Kindest regards,

Lee Euler, Publisher



 

References:

“5-Hour Energy Cited In 13 Deaths and ‘Spontaneous Abortion’” By Olivia B. Waxman. TIME.com, 15 Nov 2012. http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/15/5-hour-energy-cited-in-13-deaths-and-spontaneous-abortion/
“Are Energy Drinks Fatally Caffeinated?” By Alexandra Sifferlin. TIME.com, 25 Oct 2012. http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/24/are-energy-drinks-fatally-caffeinated/
“Consumer group wants FDA to order warning on energy drinks.” Reuters, 26 June 2014. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/06/26/consumer-group-wants-fda-to-order-warning-on-energy-drinks/
“Energy and Sports Drinks.” Health Encyclopedia for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Retrieved 2 Aug 2014. http://cancer.dartmouth.edu/pf/health_encyclopedia/abo4575
“Do energy drinks cause cancer?” Q&A for Health Tap: Medical Oncology. Retrieved 2 Aug 2014. https://www.healthtap.com/topics/do-energy-drinks-cause-cancer
“High calorie drinks.” Cancer Research UK. Retrieved 2 Aug 2014. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/coping-with-cancer/coping-physically/diet/managing/weight/high-calorie-drinks
“What’s in your energy drink?” By Alexandra Sifferlin, TIME.com, 6 February 2013. http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/06/health/time-energy-drink/

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