Energy Drinks: Can “Living Life in the Fast Lane” Do Your Body Harm?


Click to View WZZM Take 5 Segment

As school demands ramp up, the days grow shorter and sports seasons kick into high gear, many college students, busy professionals and athletes turn to energy drinks for an added kick to their day.  Today’s “In Your Cart” segment reviews who drinks these beverages, how much caffeine they contain compared to the recommended limits and what hidden dangers you should be concerned about.

Who Consumes Energy Drinks?  Much of the original energy drink advertising targets young males.  Their campaigns promoted increased attention, endurance, performance, weight loss and slogans like “gives you wings,” “unleashing the beast” and “living life in the fast lane.”

According to the Beverage Industry 2012 State of the Industry Report, energy drinks outsold bottled water!  The category got a shot in the arm from “natural” energy drinks made from herbs and vitamins in addition to caffeine.  The advantage of these newer beverages such as Vitamin Water Connect (50 mg caffeine) and Propel Invigorating (20 mg caffeine) is that they can perk you up without adding too many calories or sugar.  These newer lines seek to capture more female consumers who tend to be more weight conscious.

According to the National Institutes of Health, adolescents are the fastest growing population of caffeine users with a 70% increase in the last 30 years. In 2011, 480 non-alcoholic energy drink calls were made to poison control, 50.7% of these were in children

How Much Caffeine Do They Contain?  Caffeine contents range from a modest 50 mg to an alarming 505 mg per can or bottle according to the National Institute s of Health.  I’ve picked the 3 leading energy drinks and compared them to a Mountain Dew, Starbucks and 5 Hour Energy.  If we just compare caffeine, java drinkers consume the most amount of caffeine.  However once you add in all of the stimulants such as panax ginseng or guarana containing twice the concentration of caffeine found in content, the story changes.


Mountain Dew        16 ounces

  Red Bull       16 16 ounces

Monster         16 ounces

Rockstar     16 ounces

5 hour Energy           2 ounces

Starbucks Grande Coffee 16 ounces






















Other Stimulants

Yerba Mate, Guarana, White Tea Solids, Black Tea Extract, Ginseng

Panax Ginseng, Guarana,

What are the recommended limits?   According to the US Food & Drug Administration, a safe amount of caffeine for adults is 400 milligrams a day – equivalent to about 4-5 cups of home brewed coffee.  Pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day, teens 100 mg and children 45-85 mg per day depending on their weight.  A recent FDA report found that the average caffeine intake in the US population was 300 mg per day with two-thirds of that coming from coffee drinkers.

Be aware of other caffeine sources too.  Some weight loss pills such as Zantrex-3 contain 1,223 mg of caffeine, 2 Excedrin migraine tablets have 130 mg and a milk chocolate bar contains 20 mg.  Add this to new product launches that include caffeinated ice cream, jelly beans, trail mix and chips.  Earlier this year, Wrigley halted the launch of their Alert Gum, which contained 40 mg per stick in response to concerns voiced by the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What Are the Hidden Dangers?   Here are the top 5 concerns for viewers to be aware of.

  1. The average energy drink has limited nutritional value with the first 3 ingredients typically being water, sucrose and glucose.
  2. An average cup of energy drink contains 80 mg of caffeine compounded by other stimulants.
  3. Excess caffeine increases blood pressure, accelerates heart rate, increases anxiety, dehydrates and interrupts sleep, the latter actually leads you into the slippery slope of chronic fatigue.
  4. Energy drinks may be a Band-Aid for a problem that you’re not solving such as sleep apnea, dehydration or stress.
  5. Anyone can buy them.  You have to be 13 to get into a PG-rated movie but a 5-year-old can buy Red Bull, Monster and Rock Star.

Many people would be better off drinking a tall glass of water.  It’s free, zero calorie, refreshing, hydrating and has no bad after affects.  Consider it the next time you need a pick-me-up!

For more information:

Marketing of Energy Drinks Placed on TV Channels that Appeal to Kids

Categories: The Grocery Aisle

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