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Energy Drinks: What Parents Need To Know

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Energy Drinks: What Parents Need To Know






The worldwide market for energy drinks has grown significantly over the last decade. With names like Amp, Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster, they are appealing to teenagers who are in the need of a real boost. Parker-Pope (2008) argues that some teens are drawn to energy drinks because of the “buzz” they produce; others use them to stay awake for late night study sessions whilst others simply like the taste. Liberatore (2009) notes that energy drinks claim to provide more ‘energy’ than your typical soft drink by relieving fatigue, increasing alertness, enhancing mental and physical performance and increasing your metabolism 


Is this true and if so, how does energy drinks work?


Almost a third of teenagers aged 12-19 in the US say that they consume energy drinks regularly (Parker-Pope, 2008). Energy drinks are mostly made up of sugar and caffeine but do contains other ingredients including Taurine, Vitamins, Guarana, Ginseng, Creatine and Yerba Mate. I have provided some detail on some of these ingredients below:




Caffeine is the main “energy” ingredient in energy drinks. It is a diuretic that helps stimulate the body’s central nervous system and heart. By stimulating the central nervous system and heart it raises blood pressure which can increase alertness and enhance performance of some tasks if small doses only are consumed (Paddock, 2008).

The main concern though is that caffeine has been shown to increase adolescent blood pressure which can lead to restlessness, agitation, insomnia and abnormal heart rhythms (Liberatore, 2009). Caffeine in energy drinks have also been shown to affect the gastrointestinal tract which can lead to reflux and ulcers (Harwick and Jaberi, 2005).

The amount of caffeine in any given energy drink can vary widely. The Sports Medicine Council of Manitoba (2008) indicate that a 250ml can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine, while in caffeinated soft drinks the concentration ranges from 29mg to 55mg per 355 ml serving. Fornicola (2007) notes that energy drinks good taste and chilled state means that they can be consumed quickly which allows for a high dose of caffeine to enter the body quickly.




Taurine is the second most widely used ingredient in energy drinks after caffeine. Taurine is a nonessential amino acid that supports neurological development and regulates the level of water and mineral salts in the blood (Liberatore, 2009). A typical person’s intake of taurine is about 60mg per day, but a single serving of Red Bull contain approximately 1.000 mg of taurine (Raging Bull, 2005). A study by the University of Wisconsin found that the combination of caffeine and high levels of taurine did appear to lead to higher blood pressure and slower heart rates (Associated Press, 2006).



Vitamin B


Many energy drinks contains vitamins including vitamin B which aids in cell metabolism and supports the nervous system and the function of the immune system. Vitamin B is an essential nutrient for good health, but high levels can be toxic and result in nerve damage in the arms and legs (Robertson, 2013).




The last significant ingredient found in all energy drinks is sugar. By sugar we mean fructose as in “high fructose syrup”. Your body doesn’t process fructose directly and as such most of it ends up as cholesterol or fat (Robertson, 2013). In your average energy drink you can find up to 7 teaspoons of fructose in a can. These high sugar levels can lead to fast “highs” followed by fast “lows” due to the over -supply of simple sugars in the body (Liberatore, 2009). Another health related concern with high levels of sugar is the amount of calories it can add to ones diet along with the impact it can have on oral hygiene and tooth decay. Lastly high levels of sugar slow fluid absorption in the body because water is used to dilute the high sugar content in the body and is not used in the cells which can lead to dehydration (Liberatore, 2009).


Consumption of Energy Drinks with Alcohol


Drinking energy drinks with alcohol increases your risk of developing a health related issue. The combination of alcohol and energy drinks makes your teenager less aware of his/her’s state of drunkenness. O’Brien et al (2008), notes that one can consume more alcohol than usual because one doesn’t feel intoxicated. In addition, they argue that the alcohol-induced fatigue that normally tends to limit further alcohol consumption may be masked by the caffeine in the energy drink.

Secondly, O’Brien et al (2008, p453) indicate that “students who reported consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks had significantly higher prevalence of alcohol-related consequences, including being taken advantage of sexually, taking advantage of another sexually, riding with an intoxicated driver, being physically hurt or injured, and requiring medical treatment”.

In conclusion, energy drinks are OK if drank in moderation. They should not be abused and should never be mixed with alcohol. There are side affects with the high levels of sugar and caffeine. The concern is that there have not been enough long term studies done to determine the long-term health risks associated with energy drinks. The United States doesn’t regulate against these beverages, so it is important that you and your teenage children are informed and cautious when purchasing one of these energy drinks.






Associated Press (2006). Teens Abusing Energy Boosting Drinks, Doctors Fear. October 31.

Caffeine-Performance Enhancement or Hindrance? (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2008 from the Sports Medicine Council of Manitoba website:

Fornicola, F. (2007). Energy drinks: What’s all the “buzz” about? Coach and Athletic Director, 76 (10) 38-43.

Liberatore, S. (2009). With the Increasing Popularity of Energy Drinks, I Wonder-Are These Drinks Safe? How Do They Affect Teens? The Science Teacher. Vol (76) Issue 2 Feb 2009.

O’Brien, M.C. and McCoy, T.P. and Rhodes, S.C. and Wagoner, A. and Wolfson, M. (2008). Caffeine cocktails: Energy drink consumption, high-risk drinking, and alcohol-related consequences among college students. Academic Emergency Medicine, 15 (5) 453-460.

Paddock, R. Energy Drinks’ Effects on Student-Athletes and Implications for Athletic Departments. The Sports Journal. Vol 11: Issue 4. Fall 2008.

Parker-Pope, T. (2008). Taste for Quick Boost Tied to Taste for Risk. The New York Times. May 27.

Raging Bull: Health warning over popular energy drinks being brushed off? (2005, February 6). Retrieved July, 10, 2008.

Robertson, B. (2009). What Do Energy Drinks DO to Your Body? Science and Children Journal: 51 (4) p72.


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