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Go into any shop selling food – or, more often, food like products rather than real food (!) – and you’re virtually guaranteed to go past a shelf of energy drinks on your way to the till. Or, all too often, conveniently placed within easy reach along with other sugary snacks as you wait for your turn to pay. 
 
Marketed as a quick and easy way to boost energy levels, sales have rocketed in the last few years, with no end in sight. Along with a take away coffee and sugary snack, they’re used by many people to kick start their day instead of breakfast. Or, in the evening, with alcohol to keep going late into the night. And, while we’ve all seen the short term effects of both approaches – although, hopefully, not directly from personal experience (!) – very little thought seems to be given to the long term consequences… 
 
 
While doing some research before writing this post, we were intrigued by the very different ways in which the figures are reported here and in the USA. In the USA, it’s very easy to find out the amount spent each year on energy drinks. $3.7 billion in 2020. Yes, you read that right, 3.7 billion dollars. Here in the UK, figures are reported in a completely different way, by litres sold. 866 million litres in 2019.  
 
However, what they both agree on is that sales have increased substantially year on year since 2013. At the same time, energy drinks have largely replaced sports drinks. 
 
In both countries, not surprisingly, Red Bull tops the list by a long way. In the USA it’s followed by Boost and Monster while, here in the UK, Lucozade Energy and Lucozade Sport come next before Boost and Monster. 
 
So, let’s take a closer look at a couple of these drinks and what they actually contain: 
 
Water, Sucrose, Glucose, Acidifier Citric Acid, Carbon Dioxide, Taurine (0.4%), Acidity Regulator (Sodium Carbonates, Magnesium Carbonate), Caffeine (0.03%), Vitamins (Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, B6, B12), Flavourings, Colours (Caramel, Riboflavin). 
 
Carbonated Water, Glucose Syrup (13%), Acids (Citric Acid, Lactic Acid), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Caffeine, Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Colours (Sunset Yellow, Ponceau 4R), Sweeteners (Acesulfame-K, Aspartame), Flavourings. 
 
Or, put another way: 
 
Fizzy water + sugar and / or sweeteners + caffeine + various artificial preservatives / flavourings / synthetic vitamins. 
 
Not surprisingly the combination of ingredients – particularly sugar and caffeine – has caused concerns over potential side effects, especially when consumed regularly or in large amounts.  
 
We’ve written about sugar – a number of times in this blog and links can be found here, here and here
 
And if you think that low – or no (!) – sugar and caffeine versions are “healthier” think again. Sadly, there’s no such thing as a “good” or “healthy” energy drink. In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll find that diluted – as in with water (!) – freshly squeezed fruit juice was just as effective in raising energy levels as energy drinks. Not to mention much cheaper too… 
 
While it’s all too easy to see how energy drinks are linked with Obesity and Diabetes, researchers in the USA have found these drinks also lead to increased blood pressure. And here’s the important bit. Not only at the time they’re drunk, but for several hours afterwards. 
 
This may not be an issue for healthy young adults, but for those who already have heart conditions or high blood pressure, there could be unforeseen effects. For these reasons, these drinks have also been linked to Kidney damage, seizures and Heart Attacks. Added to this, concern has been expressed about possible interactions with any medication being taken. 
 
And here’s another concern hot off the press. Drinks high in sugar – or artificial sweeteners – are now being linked to an increased risk of Colon Cancer, particularly in young adults. 
 
Caffeine, like sugar, has also been linked to many health problems. At the very least it’s a stimulant – which is why we like it (!) – as well as making the body more acidic, which is not a good thing. These include Cancer, Cardiovascular problems, particularly High Blood Pressure, poor sleep, Anxiety, Depression, mood swings and dependence. 
 
Finally, there are the myriad of artificial preservatives, flavourings and synthetic vitamins all of which have been flagged up as problematic in recent years. 
 
While it may not be a popular things to say, our bodies don’t need energy drinks. Full stop. End of story. They contain nothing in the way of nutrition and put our bodies under unnecessary stress. This is particularly the case for children, who are much more sensitive to the high levels of sugar and caffeine. 
 
And, before we finish for today, here’s one very interesting comment made by a researcher. He linked energy drinks to poor concentration in children and wondered whether they were one of the many factors playing a part in ever increasing rates of ADD and ADHD. Years ago, having seen children coming out of the shops on their way to school with cans of energy drinks and their favourite chocolate bar, this seems like a very reasonable observation… However, on the plus side, it seems these concerns are finally getting through; with the sale of these drinks now being banned to the under 16’s in the UK. 
 
We know it isn’t seen as very exciting (!) but there really is only one way to quench your thirst and improve your concentration. There are no prizes for guessing it. Water. What more do we need to say?!? 
 
As always, the choice is yours. 
 
 
 
Photograph by unknown author 
 
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