Is the buzz from energy drinks worth the health risks?

By Makayla Waterman, Staff Writer

Drinking energy drinks every morning is routine for some Fairmont students. But if they knew what these drinks are made of, they might pick something else.

These sugar-filled carbonated sodas have become very popular over the past few years, especially among young people. And while some of these drinks may taste good, the effects the beverages have on the body – especially the heart – aren’t ideal.

For instance, energy drinks like Amp, Rock Star, Monster, Nos and Jolt contain nearly four times the caffeine of an equivalent amount of soda. In addition, energy drinks often include ingredients such as taurine, glucuronolactone, ginseng, ginkgo, biloba and guarana. That last ingredient, in fact, also contains high amounts of caffeine, which isn’t acknowledged on beverage labels.

“Caffeine has been around for a very long time, but it is only over the past 10 to 20 years that there have been drinks with such high amounts of it,” said Dr. James Pacenta, a cardiologist at Miami Valley Hospital. “In the long run, caffeine could really affect your heart and blood pressure.”

Energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster have many chemicals in them that aren’t healthy for the human body, according to Pacenta. “Drinking an excessive amount of these drinks, or any caffeinated drink for that matter, isn’t the right thing to do for you body and your nutrition,” he said.

In fact, research published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings revealed “four documented cases of caffeine-associated death have been reported, as well as five separate cases of seizures associated with the consumption of energy/power drinks.”

But many young people drink four or five of these drinks a day. “Energy drinks are a part of my everyday routine,” Fairmont sophomore Sydney Isaacs said. “I like energy drinks and they keep me awake during the day.”

Many students share Isaacs’ sentiments, but Pacenta says they’d be better off thinking about lifestyle changes instead of looking for energy in a can. “Many high school students want or think they need energy drinks,” he said. “But the best alternative to these drinks is getting exercise, having good dietary habits and getting the right amount of sleep.”

The amount of caffeine in energy drinks exceeds the amount found in an equivalent amount of brewed coffee, which is why medical professionals such as Pacenta add that energy drinks aren’t good to drink in the morning before school. Eating a healthy breakfast would help just as much or more than drinking a 12-ounce can of caffeine and sugar, he said.

Pacenta doesn’t say energy drinks are inherently bad for people, though. “The main thing I tell people who ask about energy drinks and whether or not to drink them is that anything in moderation is OK,” he said.

Fairmont sophomore Taylor Jones doesn’t have a problem moderating her intake of energy drinks because she doesn’t care for them.

“I don’t really like energy drinks because they make me feel shaky,” she said. “And I don’t like the way they make my teeth feel.”