|The past few years has seen a new craze of consuming power drinks which contain such ingredients like caffeine, B vitamins which provide energy, and taurine. What is really in these drinks and what is behind the warning on some labels suggesting that more than two drinks per day may be dangerous to one’s health? The majority of power drinks reviewed had some sort of warning on their label suggesting that those who had high blood pressure, diabetes, were under the age of 16, pregnant, nursing or were participating in sporting events should not consume the beverages.
Considering the popularity of these drinks, a poll on the NGHA portal gave interesting results: those respondents who drank one to two cans of power drink made up only 14.53%, three or more cans only 3.82 and the majority of respondents, a whopping 81.65%, stated that they did not drink any power drink. This might be taken into context where possibly many people traditionally drink coffee and tea on a regular basis.
Further evaluation of the ingredients revealed a surprising outcome. Caffeine, the main stimulant in most of the power drinks, acts upon the central nervous system (CNS). Some power drinks obtain the caffeine from a natural source namely Guarana. Caffeine increases blood pressure, can cause nervousness, irritability, insomnia and is addictive. For those who are already prone to or have a family history of heart problems, drinking stimulant drinks can lead to further health problems such as heart palpitations or fast heart rates. Additionally, the addictive properties of caffeine can often start to interfere with normal sleep patterns which in turn can cause insomnia or inability to sleep during the normal night time hours. Another factor many forget is that caffeine is a diuretic (expels water from the body), which is why some labels suggest that it not be consumed during sporting events where the body needs an increase of fluids which are typically lost during perspiration.
Comparing the power drinks to other caffeinated drinks, it is seen that a strong cup of coffee contains more caffeine than most of the power drinks.
It is also interesting to note that some countries have limits of how much caffeine popular drinks can contain. In the United States, there is a limit of 65mg of caffeine per 12 liquid ounce beverage. (CoffeeFaq)
The second most common ingredient in power drinks is taurine. It is an amino acid normally produced in the body and helpful for several bodily functions. “Taurine is found naturally in meat, fish and breast milk, and it's commonly available as a dietary supplement.”(Mayo Taurine) This amino acid also helps in digestion of lipids (fats) and is said to increase reaction time and concentration. Many reports also suggest that taurine increases the effectiveness and strength of heart-muscle contractions. Basically, the use of this amino acid is beneficial and is not suspected to cause any ill side effects in the amounts found in most power drinks.
Additionally, many energy drinks also contain herbs such as ginkgo balboa (stimulates memory), ginseng (boosts energy), Guarana (a natural seed which fights fatigue), and a range of B vitamins which can be beneficial during times of stress. Although some of these ingredients might provide some positive health benefits, the high sugar content of most drinks is a large drawback as the sucrose or high fructose syrups used can cause a surge in insulin levels and lead to weight gain. Furthermore, benefits of these ingredients may be outweighed by the compounded effect of the caffeine. Many caffeine containing drinks such as tea and coffee are sipped over a period of time whereas these power drinks are consumed at a faster rate increasing the shock effect.
Therefore, consuming more than one power drink daily and for long periods of time is not a suggested habit. Rather than depend upon fast fixes for energy, it is recommended that people start to modify their eating and living habits to include a healthy breakfast, a good night’s sleep and plenty of exercise which will increase one’s overall health and energy levels.