SOUTH BEND A recent study out of Yale Universityclaims there’s a link between school aged children’s consumption of sugary energy drinks and a higher risk for hypertension. That’s just the latest controversy surrounding the popular beverages. Despite negative reports from health professionals over the past few years, the highly caffeinated beverages remain popular.
Local health experts say teens and young adults are turning to energy drinks not only for a quick jolt of caffeine, but also to support rigorous workouts.
“They want that rush, that exciting feeling, which is going to make them potentially workout harder, if they’re going to use that energy effectively; but there are so many risks and so many negatives on the other side of it,” said Sandy Sampson, the Health and Fitness Manager at the Kroc Center.
Some of those negatives are excess caffeine and sugar. The beverages often contain double or triple the acceptable amount for adults. Some say about 300-400mg of caffeine is generally okay for an adult, that’s about 5 shots of espresso. But, health professionals say caffeine isn’t safe for children when brains and bodies are still developing. When it comes to added sugar, the American Heart Association says adult males should not consume more than 9 teaspoons daily and females not more than 6 teaspoons.
“They’re also drinking them and consuming them pretty rapidly, so they’re drinking them like a soda. And then they consume large amounts, 500-600mg in a short amount of time, that’s really where the concerns are happening and sending them to the hospital and poison centers. Because it’s just too much for their bodies to handle,” said Sampson.
And a local dietitian agrees.
“Typically people that drink coffee are drinking it slow because it’s hot. But the energy drinks are cold, so teens are consuming it much quicker,” said Sophie Lauer, a Registered Dietitian at Memorial Hospital.
Lauer says the unregulated additives in energy drinks are also a concern. Ingredients like guarcana- a plant with twice the concentrated caffeine as a coffee seed, and taurine- an amino acid, are not included in the nutrition facts.
“That may not be included in the actual caffeine they have labeled,” said Lauer.
According to the FDA website, “substances that are generally recognized as safe by qualified experts are not considered to be food additives, and can therefore be added to conventional foods without pre-approval from FDA.”
When it comes to fitness, an energy drink and caffeine jolt isn’t the only way teens and young adults are attempting to boost the benefits of a workout. Many rely on protein supplements to “bulk up.” Protein is necessary in the body, but too much of a good thing can lead to negative results.
“One of the dangers is over-using protein,” said Sarah Vansickle, the Health and Fitness Lead at the Kroc Center. “One of the risks is kidney failure.”
The American Academy of Sports Medicine says the average person needs .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
“So, what you would do for a regular person, is take your pounds, divide that by 2.2 and then multiply that by .8,” said Vansickle.
“Too much protein, too, is bad for your kidneys, so it’s important to watch how much protein you get. Which Americans get more than enough protein on their own,” said Lauer.