Energy drinks are big business, but watch for the crash

Since the first can charged onto the market in 1997, energy drinks have become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. But when you reach for an energy drink to give you a boost before a big game, workout, critical test or work project, what is the real cost of that rush?

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2009 4:17am
  • Life

Products promise

an initial rush, but troubles begin when the buzz wears off

Since the first can charged onto the market in 1997, energy drinks have become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. But when you reach for an energy drink to give you a boost before a big game, workout, critical test or work project, what is the real cost of that rush?

For many, it’s an energy-sapping crash that occurs after the drink’s caffeine and sugar work their way through the body’s system. For others, the impact is immediate health and behavioral issues. Schools from New Jersey to Colorado have banned energy drinks after teachers noticed behavioral problems among students who regularly consumed the beverages, and other children sought treatment from school nurses after “crashing” post-drink.

Marketed as a supplement, energy drinks are not subject to review and approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But growing scrutiny from health care professionals and an increasingly enlightened consuming public have prompted beverage makers to explore healthier energy-drink options.

“The good news is that not all energy drinks are created equal — and not all rely on excessive levels of artificial caffeine and sugar to provide the burst of energy that drinkers seek,” says Dan Macuga, an energy-drink expert with supplement-maker USANA Health Sciences.

So how do you differentiate among drinks? What should you look for in an energy drink to ensure you enjoy the beverage’s benefits without risks or side effects?

Macuga offers some advice:

Be cautious about caffeine

Virtually all energy drinks contain caffeine, and some contain very high levels indeed — up to 500 mg in an 8 ounce serving. That’s significantly higher than the 250 mg per day that’s considered safe. And if the caffeine comes from artificial sources, as most does, it can be even more detrimental.

Stay away from excessive sugar

Many energy drinks contain high levels of glucose syrup, which rapidly raises blood sugar, giving you that energy “rush.” But extended use of high levels of glucose syrup may lead to type 2 diabetes.

At the very least, you will likely experience a “crash” about 60 to 90 minutes after drinking a high-glucose solution because blood sugar levels drop quickly and drastically after the syrup is processed by the body. The crash leaves many people feeling light-headed, weak, lacking energy and hungry.

Think of your drink as a supplement, not just a “rush.”

Seek out nutritionally sound beverages that are designed to help your body better produce its own energy, rather than relying on sugar or caffeine for an artificial boost. Thanks to increased consumer awareness and the entry of nutritional supplement companies into the market, it’s now possible to find energy drinks that also act as a nutritional supplement.

“Plenty of scientific information on energy-building nutrition is available to the energy drink industry,” Macuga says. “Yet many drink makers are not willing to cut into their profit margins in order to include good, healthful ingredients that might be more expensive. But increasingly savvy consumers are driving demand for more healthful, natural energy drink alternatives.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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