by Jess Snyder
In my previous article I discussed the caffeine content of energy drinks, and also the standard serving sizes that they are sold in. While many energy drinks have the same amount of caffeine as their competitors, and less caffeine than coffee, they do have a blend of sugar and herbal supplements which reputedly also supply energy.
Soda and high-sugar energy drinks can present an addictive jolt of energy for children. Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael Jacobson has confirmed caffeine’s addictive properties. “Twenty years ago, teens drank twice as much milk as soda pop. Now they drink twice as much soda pop as milk.”
In addition to high quantities of sugar and caffeine, many energy drinks contain herbal supplements often labeled on the nutrition facts as a mysterious “Energy Blend.” The most common of these supplements are Taurine, Guarana, Ginseng and Vitamin B.
Taurine is an amino acid which is found naturally in the human body. Tests have indicated that it may enhance endurance performance and help keep lactic acid build-up at a minimum after exercise. While energy drinks often contain a very high concentration of synthetic Taurine (an average of 753 mg/8 ounces), studies have not yet found it to have any severe adverse side effects.
Guarana is a seed from South America that contains caffeine. This can be misleading, since energy drink nutrition labels often to not include this extra dose of caffeine (up to 40 mg) in their listed values. Though there are some claims that Guarana is metabolized more slowly than pure caffeine, thereby prolonging the effects of the caffeine, studies have not shown any significant difference between how Guarana and pure caffeine are absorbed. Guarana is suggested to improve cognitive performance, mental fatigue, and mood. Studies have not yet shown any severe adverse effects when Guarana is consumed in brief high doses or chronic low doses.
Ginseng is a root from Asia that is popular for its many health benefits. However, it is inconclusive whether it truly affects physical performance, psychomotor performance, or cognitive function. One study found that Ginseng has no beneficial effects on mood or memory, but another study showed reductions in mental fatigue if over 200 mg were taken. Ginseng is considered “generally safe,” as high doses can result in hypertension, diarrhea, and sleep disturbance.
B vitamins are often advertised on energy drink labels. Many drinks far exceed the recommended daily value of vitamin B; 5 Hour Energy has more than 8000%, for example. Vitamin B is a water-soluble vitamin. When the body receives any extra vitamin B beyond the 100% that it needs to function normally, it is secreted from the body as waste. This makes the logic behind including such extreme doses of it in energy drinks a little difficult to grasp.
So when you’re perusing the different varieties of energy drinks available, check the sugar content and the herbal supplements. You may be surprised how much energy you’re actually getting.
Read other articles by Jess Snyder
Energy Drinks: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
What Triggers a Headache?
Five Things to Remember in Your Child’s 504 Plan
5 Ways to Avoid Phishing Scams
Jessica Snyder joined the Spry Wellness Blog as a contributor in 2012. She is currently working to obtain an undergraduate degree in English and Communications at the University of Michigan.