by Natasha Longo
December 22, 2014
Natasha Longo has a
master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness
and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public
health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia,
Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.
Two research papers, each published separately, suggest that
concerns over levels of caffeine and sugar in energy drinks, and
their effects on young people who drink them, are mounting.
Energy drinks are beverages that claim to,
"make you more alert and give you energy."
Most have ingredients like,
They can be found anywhere you buy beverages beside
the pop, juices and sports drinks.
The amount of caffeine in energy drinks is more than what is
recommended for children. Most government public health agencies say
that children under 12 years of age should have less than 85 mg of
caffeine per day depending on their age. This means that one energy
drink can easily put children over their caffeine limits.
Energy Drinks have previously been found to cause irreversible
damage to tooth enamel and detrimentally affect the contraction of
A study published in the issue of General Dentistry,
the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General
Dentistry, found that an alarming increase in the consumption of
sports and energy drinks, especially among adolescents, is causing
irreversible damage to teeth -
specifically, the high acidity levels in the drinks erode tooth
enamel, the glossy outer layer of the tooth.
The FDA says they are powerless to change formulation of energy
"We have no guidance or regulations that govern
the formulation of energy drinks," said FDA spokeswoman Susan
The agency does not have the authority to do that,
Susan Cruzan said.
"Under current law, the manufacturer is
responsible for ensuring that its products are safe and such
products do not require FDA premarket review or approval."
"There's a tremendous amount of caffeine in these drinks,"
Jeanna Marraffa, a clinical toxicologist at the Upstate New York
Poison Center told USA TODAY.
"I would say: know what's in these products, have
a sense of how much you're consuming and realize they are not
safe. Certainly you can have toxic effects from them."
Patrice Radden, a spokeswoman for Red Bull,
said the company is confident in the safety of its products and does
not see the need for warning labels.
All energy drinks including,
...and several others all contain many toxic
sweeteners such as sucralose,
aspartame and high-fructose corn
3 Times Higher Caffeine
Noting that caffeine levels in energy drinks are up to three times
higher than in other caffeinated drinks including coffee or cola,
Dorner said known side-effects included a rapid heart rate,
palpitations, a rise in blood pressure,
"and in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden
Manufactured by the chemical industry,
synthetic caffeine is big business
in many drinks that contain the drug.
Natural, real caffeine comes from various
plant species. Caffeine content within these plants will
vary throughout the year depending on weather, soil
conditions, time of year harvested, etc. So caffeine content
is impossible and impractical to determine for labeling on
products like coffee or tea. They have constantly changing
amounts. Naturally caffeinated products will not have
caffeine as an ingredient or measurement on the label.
The first sign the caffeine in your drink is
synthetic is it is listed on the label & has an exact
measurement. This is the cheapest & most common added
caffeine source. The processes & compounds may vary between
chemical companies, but they are all disturbing.
Still usually synthetic, caffeine can be
obtained from the coffee decaffeination industry, although
it is substantially pricier & rarely used. This will also
note caffeine on the label with a measurement. Caffeine
supplies from this industry use methylene chloride,
formaldehyde or ethyl acetone for it's removal. There is no
such thing as removing the caffeine with just water.
Two Studies Expose Dangers
The first study - a study of 10-35 year olds Danes' intake of energy
drinks conducted by the National Food Institute of Denmark - shows
that when children aged 10-14 consume energy drinks, one in five
consumes too much caffeine.
Indeed, when their caffeine intake from other sources such as cola
and chocolate is included, every second child, and more than one in
three adolescents aged 15-17 consume too much caffeine, said the
The Danish report also found that 42% of energy drink consumers have
experienced adverse effects such as insomnia, restlessness and heart
"It is worrying that so many have experienced
adverse effects from drinking energy drinks," said Jeppe
Matthiessen, senior adviser from the National Food Institute.
The report also suggests that 10-14 year olds have
'limited knowledge' of the ingredients in energy drinks, the side
effects of drinking them and the recommendation that children,
pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should not consume energy
"It seems as if there has been a change in the
perception of the types of drinks that people consider normal to
drink," said Matthiessen. "Among younger consumers energy drinks
now have the same status as soft drinks had previously."
"Both the use of and attitudes towards energy drinks give us
reason to be concerned that the intake will increase in the
coming years and we therefore suggest that more information will
be made available about energy drinks aimed at children and
adolescents as well as their parents."
Sugar and caffeine?
A second study, published in the Journal of Caffeine Research,
adds to the debate on caffeine and energy drinks by evaluating
whether the effects of caffeine differ with or without sugar.
The results the research show that the physiological responses to
caffeine with and without sugar 'varied widely' between individuals.
Elaine Rush and her colleagues from Auckland University
measured the heart rate and carbon dioxide production (as a measure
of respiration) of individuals for 30 minutes before and after they
consumed a defined quantity of sugar, caffeine, or sugar and
The team said that the wide range of responses may be due to the
effects of caffeine phenotype, physical activity level, habitual
intake and metabolic responses, including markers of de novo
lipogenesis - adding that further research is needed.