The illusion of energy drink!

Dr Yousuf Ali al Mulla –

In the last decades, consumption of energy drinks has been increasing amongst our young adults and adolescents. I believe the time has come to review and raise the concerns both by the medical community (represented by the ministry of Health and related institutions) among the general public. Plenty of energy drinks are now available in markets and are aggressively marketed claiming that these products can boost our energy and improve our physical and cognitive performance!
However, till now most of the studies supporting such claims are limited. In fact, several adverse health effects have raised the questions about whether these beverages are safe.
According to WHO an energy drink, it is taken to mean a non-alcoholic drink, contains caffeine, taurine (an amino acid) and vitamins, in addition to other ingredients.
It has been noted, that the major constituent in most energy drinks is caffeine. Beside 320 mg of caffeine — amount of about four cups of coffee — the energy drink contained 4 ounces of sugar, several B vitamins and some other ingredients. Unfortunately, some of these ingredients (including taurine and guarana) have not been FDA-approved as safe in the food supply.
I would say that, most of the brands what I have observed in our markets contains large amount of glucose while other brands offer artificially sweetened versions.
Despite limited comprehensive reviews that explained the safety to energy drink consumption, but still various studies available which explains the adverse health effects of such drinks.
Recent reports have shown how these drinks might increase the heart rate and blood pressure after consumption of energy drinks, not only that, but with individuals who have high intake of such products, they may develop symptoms of caffeine intoxication.
I have urged many students, to take care of themselves when they think of having a such drink, which they think might boost their cognitions while they are preparing for their exams, however, such drinks induce anxieties and caffeine-induced sleep disorders prior to their exam night, which affect negatively in their school results.
Also, one of the things that surprisingly many of us have ignored, but studies revealed it, knowing that acute caffeine intake decreases insulin sensitivity, which could explain high blood sugar after energy drink consumption, ending with the development of diabetes type 2.
Lately, scientists found that 55 per cent of 12 to 24-year-olds reported negative health impacts, including rapid heart rates and seizures! Not only that, have you thought how blood pressure increased by close to 5 points after drinking the energy drink, but by just under 1 point after drinking the caffeine beverage. Blood pressure also remained elevated six hours later.
Therefore, if there is any regulations or policies available might help in restricting the distribution and sale of energy drinks, at least for certain ages.
A question that needs our concerns, in view of the reports in which a case was discovered to have acute renal insult in a 40-year-old man after a daily intake of energy drinks for about two weeks.
I do agree that large amount of caffeine in energy drinks might provide the consumer to some extent, a desirable effect of elevated mood and might improve memory with beneficial effects on exercise performance, but we should consider the health problems related to the heart and liver, which have been documented, particularly amongst our children and adolescents. It was nice to hear that some countries like Sweden, where the sale of some products are restricted to pharmacies and sales to children under 15 are banned. Education and regulation of the marketing of energy drinks, are critical looking at the association between energy drinks and sporting prowess nowadays.
Eventually, in view of related studies, I would suggest evaluating and studying the safety of the non-caffeine ingredients contained in energy drinks as many incidents discovered irregularities in the heartbeat, after drinking the energy drink, but not after drinking the caffeine beverages.
 Dr Yousuf Ali Almulla, MD, Ministry of Health. He is a medical innovator and educator. For any queries regarding the content of the column, he can be contacted at: