In 2011, 1,499 teens went to the emergency room due to complications from excessive energy drink consumption (CDC 2019 Sep 6). This startling figure is the grim reality that hides behind a façade of fun flavors and bold advertising. Energy drinks are a rapidly growing market that has developed a presence in the online world primarily to advertise to young adults (Buchanan et al. 2017). Young adults are at a critical age in their mental development as they get their first taste of freedom, but how they use this freedom can have lasting impacts on their health.
Energy drinks are a glucose-based beverage that contain both caffeine and taurine. This combination of ingredients provides the consumer with both a bolt of energy and increased focus (CDC 2019 Sep 6). In a study by the University of Northern Kentucky, participants receiving the energy drink reported feeling more energized and had a faster reaction time than those who received either no drink or the placebo drink (Howard and Marczinski 2010). However, the greater the amount of drink they were given, the lower their increase in performance was. This shows that there seems to be an optimal amount of beverage that provides the best results- a mere 1.8 ml. While the energy drink delivers on its promises, it can bring with them some undesirable side effects.
The combination of sugar, caffeine, and taurine in an energy drink can be a dangerous combination, particularly to the adolescent brain and body. With the frontal lobe still not fully developed, an adolescent’s ability to self-regulate and control impulses have not completely formed. Often, students consume large quantities of energy drinks unaware of the risk they are putting themselves in. The large dose of caffeine ad taurine provided in the beverage can lead to insomnia and anxiety (CDC 2019 Sep 6). Both of these conditions can be devastating to the routine of an adolescent, and they have the potential to affect every aspect of their daily lives. Heart complications or even failure can also come from the consumption of too many energy drinks; the body cannot handle the quantity of stimulants it is consuming (CDC 2019 Sep 6).
Additionally, the consumption of energy drinks can lead consumers to live an unhealthier lifestyle. A startling thirty-nine percent of young adults are obese (Buchanan et al. 2017). This number is likely to increase as the unhealthy food and beverage market chooses to shift their efforts from children to teens and young adults. One serving of Monster Energy contains twenty-seven grams of sugar, and each can contains two servings (Wong 2020 Mar 4). The AHA says an adult male should consume no more than thirty-six grams per day, and women should consume twenty-five grams in a day (AHA). If an adolescent consumes a whole Monster energy drink, they have consumer around twice their daily sugar in a single beverage. In a study of caffeine consumption by American college students, those who consumed energy drinks would often self-report themselves as being of poor health and used tobacco products (Mahoney et al. 2019). This is demonstrated once again in an Ontario study of teenagers where students who were either underweight or obese had a higher energy drink consumption than those with healthy BMIs (Reid et al. 2015). While both of these studies fail to consider various other factors that could contribute to the adolescent consumption of energy beverages, they still demonstrate an obvious correlation of unhealthy lifestyles and energy drinks.
In recent years, energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcoholic beverages presenting yet another danger of this beverage. Various research has continuously proven that in teenagers there is a correlation between the amount of alcohol they consume and the likelihood of them drinking an energy drink (Reid et al. 2015). In a recent study, more than sixty percent of the students who reported binge drinking in the past week also consumed energy drinks (Reid et al. 2015). Consuming energy drinks, a beverage containing several stimulants, with alcohol, a depressant, can lead to disruption of neural and cognitive function. Often the consumer is able to retain consciousness and alertness longer than if they were solely drinking alcohol. This leads to them drinking a greater quantity of alcohol (Howard and Marczinski 2010). The correlation between excessive drinking and the consumption of energy beverages is a topic that is yet to be thoroughly investigated. While there are obvious dangers to the combination of the beverages, there is still more to learn, yet at what cost? Should adolescents be allowed to consume these beverages in excess for the sake of science? There is still much to learn; however, what is known is that binge drinking can lead to serious health issues, and energy drinks increase the likelihood of this event.
In a study of energy drink use by students in seventh to twelfth grade, one in five students consumed an energy drink once a week. Additionally, of those consuming these beverages, one in ten reported having an energy beverage six or seven days a week (Reid et al. 2015). This is a frightening figure. Energy drinks contain multiple legal stimulants, more than an entire day’s worth of sugar, and are specifically marketed towards a population that lacks a fully developed decision-making function. These drinks do not have an age limit and are even sold in some middle and high school cafeterias. Along with the array of health issues caused by consuming energy drinks alone, there is now the danger they present when used as a mixer for binge drinking. Energy drinks are often marketed as being the delicious and energizing beverage of adventurers and risk-takers, but in reality, the real risk is allowing young people to continuously consume these beverages without understanding the danger they are putting themselves in.
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