Energy Crisis: Dangerous Drinks? - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Energy Crisis: Dangerous Drinks?

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - In the last four years alone, ER visits associated with non-alcoholic energy drinks increased by about 12,000. There have been more than 1,000 reported cases of energy drink overdoses and adverse reactions. Still, they're flying off store shelves.

"They were desperately trying to save him," Cheryl James, told Ivanhoe. "I mean he was 19 years old, you don't die at 19, right?"

Two months after he graduated high school, Cheryl James buried her seemingly healthy son, Drew.

"I said some strangers are going to call and tell me what happened to my son, and I rather you guys call and tell me what happened to my son," Cheryl said.

Cheryl said Drew's friends told her they saw him vomit and suffer seizures before he died.

"They brought me a can of Monster Nitrous and pretty much said they were almost confident that's what killed Drew," she said.

Drew's autopsy was inconclusive, but there have been numerous documented deaths and seizures associated with alcohol-free energy drinks.

"What's on the label doesn't necessarily mean what's in the drink, and the amounts don't necessarily coordinate either," Mindy Black, a registered dietician, explained.

Black said a key ingredient to check for is caffeine. Too much can cause heart palpitations, seizures or sudden death. In some cases it can trigger unknown preexisting heart conditions.

"They don't recommend you to have more than 300 mg of caffeine a day and kids should not have more than 100," Black said.

Kids under 12 don't need more than 80. Also important is sugar.

"If we had two of these [drinks] a day for a week that's almost a pound a week in fat," Black said.

One Amp energy drink is equal to six glazed donuts. One Full Throttle equals eleven butter croissants. And for the cans that tout extra energy boosters like Taurine, Ginseng, Ginko or Guarana.

Black said don't pay extra money because the amounts that they put in the can are not enough to actually work. If you're looking for a boost, switch energy drinks for water. Seventy five percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, a top reason for fatigue.

"If we're dehydrated a lot of our organs and vital systems are slowing down which can make us lethargic and tired," Black said.

Drinking cold water can increase energy for up to two hours. Also, don't skip meals.

"Most Americans only get 10 grams of fiber a day, we actually need more like 30,"Black said.

A diet rich in fiber, B-vitamins, magnesium and Omega-3's will help boost and stabilize energy. Some of the best snacks to get you out of a funk are almonds, edamame, oatmeal, whole wheat toast, greek yogurt and low-fat popcorn. They're packed with things to help recharge your battery.

Finally, get moving.

"Just a 10 minute brisk walk will increase your energy stores for about two hours," Black said.

If you insist on a drink, Black said go with ‘5 Hour Energy.' While the sugar free shot is made up of key vitamins and amino acids, the label doesn't show if there's enough of each to be effective.

"Some people say if it works, and it's in your head than it's worth it," Black said.

If you prefer energy in a can, Black said an occasional drink is no big deal, but too many, too often, can be toxic. Cheryl believes her son is proof of that danger.

"I definitely never thought it would be a drug they sell in the store that would kill my son," Cheryl said.

While some energy drinks have the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, experts said the addition of other stimulants is what makes them more dangerous. People who should stay away from energy drinks include kids under 12, people taking certain medications, or those who have heart disease or hypertension.


SURVEY SAYS:  According to self-report surveys, energy drinks are consumed by 30% to 50% of adolescents and young adults. Of the 5,448 US caffeine overdoses reported in 2007, 46% occurred in those younger than 19 –years-old. The problem is not just an American one. Several countries and states have debated or restricted their sales and advertising. Denmark, Turkey and Uruguay have banned them; Norway prohibits sales to children under 15.

RESEARCH & REVIEWS: One review of the effects of high-caffeine energy drinks on children and young adults found that they have been linked to an array of serious events like heart palpitations, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest and death. They may also pose additional risks to young people who take medication or have chronic illnesses. A study published in the journal Pediatrics urges pediatricians to discuss the risks of energy drinks with patients, especially those with heart conditions and mood or behavioral disorders, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The high amounts of sugar can also pose risks to those with diabetes. Last October, the National Federation of State High School Associations cautioned that caffeinated energy drinks (which are often confused with products like Gatorade, a fluid replacement drink) should not be consumed before, during or after physical activity because they could raise the risk of dehydration and increase the chance of potentially fatal heat illnesses. (SOURCE:

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Experts say energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated. The known and unknown pharmacology of agents included in such drinks, combined with reports of toxicity, raises concern for potentially serious adverse effects in association with energy-drink use. In the short-term, pediatricians need to be aware of the possible effects of energy drinks in vulnerable populations and screen for consumption to educate families. Long-term research should aim to understand the effects in at-risk populations. Toxicity surveillance should be improved, and regulations of energy-drink sales and consumption should be based on appropriate research.

An average energy drink contains 70 to 80 milligrams of caffeine per eight-ounce serving, that's about three times the concentration of some sodas, but may derive extra caffeine from other ingredients, like kola nut, cocoa and guarana.

The trade group, American Beverage Association says the study presents misinformation about energy drinks, and that an average energy drink contains only half the caffeine of a cup of coffeehouse coffee.  (SOURCE:


Registered dietitian, Mindy Black, talks about getting a boost of energy naturally .

What are the top things that boost your energy?

Mindy Black: We can boost our energy through easy food items. The first thing I do is make sure they're drinking enough water because our body is made up of 60% water. If we're dehydrated, a lot of our organs and vital systems are slowing down, which can make us lethargic and tired. I recommend ½ your body weight in water ounces a day. It seems like a lot, but if you're drinking that during the day, it's only about 4 or 5 bottles of water that you can pick up around town. It's not that much and that way you can have a natural and free energy booster.

How much of a difference does it make?

Mindy Black: If we drink water, especially cold water, we can increase our energy for up to 2 hours after drinking it. It can make a big difference especially if you're drinking caffeine. Caffeine dehydrates us for 24 hours, and alcohol for 72 hours, so if you're doing one of those things throughout each day, then you're probably walking around constantly dehydrated, which is going to make you constantly fatigued.

What's another one?

Mindy Black: Just make sure you're getting a variety in your diet because if we're eating the same thing every day, we might be missing important nutrients. For instance, B vitamins help breakdown glucose into what we use for energy, so if we're not getting enough B vitamins, which are found in whole grains, whole grain or whole wheat bread, then you're not getting your B vitamins. That will help. Magnesium is the same way; it helps break down glucose for energy. That's going to be found in fatty fishes, nuts and seeds. Other things that help with energy are Omega 3's. We hear about that helping our heart, but it also helps with increased energy and mood.

How many servings of those a day?

Mindy Black: As far as B vitamins go, if we just had oatmeal in the morning that's going to get your daily needs in. If you're looking at Omega 3's, if we're getting in 3 servings of fish a week or so then you're getting your Omega 3's in pretty easily. Some other ones are fiber. Most Americans only get about 10 grams of fiber a day. We actually need more like 30. We always hear that it keeps us regular, but it also helps slow down the metabolism of our food. It slows down how quickly we're digesting things so we can get a constant blood sugar going instead of a spike, and then a crash down later on that leaves us fatigued.

What are some of the best sources of it fiber?

Mindy Black: Fruits and vegetables are going to be your best source or whole grains, so anything that's like a whole grain or a whole oat like breads, cereals and pastas will help increase your fiber intake.

What else?

Mindy Black: A big one is to not skip meals. The way our blood sugars work is they regulate our energy levels. If our blood sugars are low, we feel lethargic; we usually get headaches or get kind of crabby. If they're low then we're going to be reaching for the energy drinks. Our blood sugars after a meal stay stable for 2 to 3 hours, so if we skip a meal or if we skip breakfast, especially if we haven't eaten since 7 o'clock the night before, we're running on empty fuel. I always recommend that people eat breakfast No.1 and then eat 3 to 4 hours after that throughout the day, little snacks or meals.

What about people that say they're not a breakfast person?

Mindy Black: A lot of people say that and a lot of the people that say they're not hungry is probably because you haven't been eating breakfast for the past 5 years. We have a little caveman inside of us. He has no idea it's 2012 and there's a Starbuck's on every corner. Since you're gone 5 hours without eating breakfast, this caveman thinks you're a crappy hunter and cannot get food in the morning, so after about 2 weeks of eating breakfast your body starts saying ok I'm hungry now and you start waking up hungry. That actually scares a lot of people, but that means your metabolism is actually working so it's a good sign.

How about exercise?

Mindy Black: A lot of people will complain especially at 3 o'clock in the afternoon that they're really tired and they need energy especially if you have a desk job. You've been sitting at your desk for hours then we're not getting the circulation we need to get all the nutrients that we need throughout the body, so even once an hour just get up and move, that's going to help with your energy. They've done studies and just a 10 minute brisk walk will increase your energy storage for about 2 hours. If you can go on a 10 minute walk at lunch, that can help you throughout the afternoon. Just one 10 minute walk and that's going to help boost you for 2 hours. If you can't do that, then at least just once an hour getting up and moving around your desk works.

What is the difference between exercises?

Mindy Black: Any exercise is going to boost your metabolism as long as you're eating. If you're not eating at all and going to exercise, you're going to be fatigued afterwards. Any exercise is going to increase that circulation, which increase your oxygen levels. Getting the nutrients around whether it be just walking around the block or going to a boot camp, you're going to be able to increase your energy absolutely.

Is there any mistake that people can make that gets them tired?

Mindy Black: Definitely. Eating large bouts of sugars. A lot of times at 3 o'clock, the vending machine is right down the hallway and we're like ‘I really need some energy' so I'm going to go get a candy bar. What happens there is, we eat a candy bar and we feel awesome for about 20 minutes because it breaks down immediately into sugar and our blood sugars spike up. Then, about 45 minutes later we're coming crashing down. If you're surviving throughout the day on say maybe having a donut for breakfast and then a Coca Cola around 10, then cookies or chocolate in the afternoon, you're doing spikes all day long and you're definitely going to crash. I would definitely avoid that and have more of a snack that has a little bit of quality protein in it. You can have an apple with some peanut butter or a piece of fruit with some cheese or hummus, and carrots or something like that's going to hold you over a lot better.

Anything else that drains our energy?

Mindy Black: If you're not sleeping that's going to drain your energy. They've done numerous studies showing that you need at least 5 hours of sleep to be able to replenish all your cells. If we're skipping out on sleep, you're going to be fatigued the rest of the day. If you can get a power nap in for 20 minutes that will help you with your energy. The other thing would be relying on too much caffeine because caffeine is kind of a false sense of energy, so as soon as we use it up, we're going to crash right down.

Can you talk about energy drinks?

Mindy Black: Most energy drinks are made up of caffeine, sugar or sugar substitute. A lot of them will market that they're caffeine free, what that means is that they're not using synthetic caffeine but they might be using a natural caffeine such as Kava or koala nut. It is still caffeine and caffeine in small doses has been seen to be helpful whether it be we're running a block or trying to get through our day, but if you're relying on large amounts of caffeine, not only can we get addicted to it, but it can cause GI distress, nervousness, irritability and high blood pressure. They don't recommend that you have more than 300 mgs of caffeine a day. Kids shouldn't have any more than 100 mgs a day. To put that in perspective, a Coca-Cola has about 35 mgs. These drinks range anywhere from 80 to 280, so if you're picking one that has 280 out and you're doing that a couple of times a day, we're grossly over the limit of what we need to be caffeine wise.

Are there long term effects from drinking too many energy drinks

Mindy Black: Being addicted to caffeine. If you've ever talked to people that try to get off Mountain Dew or any other caffeine substance, they say they have really bad headaches and they're irritable. Same thing that happens with these.


Mindy Black MS,RD,CSSD,CPT

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