University Of Illinois Extension Agent Warns Against Energy Drinks

Jenna Hogan, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator, noted in a recent press release that energy drinks refer to beverages that contain caffeine in combination with other ingredients, such as guarana, taurine or other vitamins and/or minerals, and claims to provide the consumer with extra energy.

Hogan noted that energy drinks fall under the classification of supplements. In the U.S, nutritional supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and without control over the caffeine content and many of the ingredients used in these beverages, the public cannot be assured of its safety. Many of the ingredients listed on these nutrition labels have not been well-studied.

Energy drinks often contain very high doses of caffeine, which may range from 90 to 500 milligrams per serving. In comparison, an average 8-ounce serving of a soft drink and a cup of coffee contains 24 and 85 milligrams of caffeine respectively. This means that one 8-ounce energy drink can have as much caffeine as 14 cans of cola! For most healthy adults the American Dietetic Association states that moderate amounts of caffeine ( 200 to 300 milligrams per day, or about 2 to 3 cups of coffee ) is not associated with adverse health effects. However, a high consumption of caffeine can be linked to side effects, such as disrupted sleep, dehydration, a decrease in bone mass, high blood pressure, kidney damage, seizures, and stroke.

"In addition to the high caffeine content, many energy drinks contain a large amount of added sugars," said in a prepared statement. "Whether you are an athlete or a student hitting the books, the best drink for hydration is water."

Editor's Insight: This university extension agent indicates that because energy drinks are considered supplements, they have escaped the regulatory scrutiny that applies to other beverages.

Energy drinks are a fast growing product and the federal government should be paying more attention to how these products are labeled. 03-15-11 Elliot Maras