Caffeine levels in energy drinks can be harmful

Illustration by Mabel Gutierrez

Mabel Gutierrez

Illustration by Mabel Gutierrez

Sydney Jasper, Staff Writer

Bang, Redbull, Rockstars, Monsters, Nos and 5-hour Energy are just some of the many energy drinks sold on market shelves. Billed as drinks that increase physical performance, energy and alertness, these products are frequently consumed by teens—but few understand the potential side effects.

“I drink energy drinks maybe once a week mostly before games or if I wake up early,” senior Tori Lopez said. “I know they are not the most healthy but they give me the energy I need to get stuff done.”

Most energy drinks contain added sugar and supplements such as caffeine, ginseng, B-vitamins, sugar, carnitine and stimulants such as guarana that claim to increase energy.

“Overall, the concern is that these vitamins, amino acids and herbals are often in higher concentrations than naturally [occur] in food or plants, and the effects when combined especially with caffeine may be enhanced,” Katherine Zeratsky, a clinical dietitian at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in an interview with CNN.

Caffeine levels vary, and students should be aware of their intake when consuming these products. Many energy drinks are labeled as “dietary supplements” rather than a beverage in order to avoid regulations and scrutiny that conventional foods face from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

With avoided regulations, the FDA loses much of its dominance over the drink’s contents and potential health benefit claims. The FDA classifies caffeine as GRAS—Generally Recognized As Safe—and levels do not always have to be revealed on labels.

“Energy drinks are my go-to when I need quick energy,” junior Maiah Walker said. “I consume them often but don’t really pay attention to the labels.”
Caffeine, if consumed in moderation, can be a healthy component in an individual’s diet. Plants used to make coffee, tea and chocolate all naturally contain caffeine in limited quantities. Typically, one average eight ounce cup of coffee contains 80-100 milligrams of caffeine; an eight ounce cup of green or black tea contains 30-50 milligrams. However, energy drinks can range from 40-300 milligrams.

“Usually my friends and I buy Bangs, which contain 300 mg of caffeine,” junior Danny Udermann said. “Sometimes, we drink two.”

Bangs have increasingly become one of the most popular energy drinks due to its zero grams of sugar and calories; instead, the drink contains additives such as Super Creatine and BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids), but the amounts are not disclosed.

Before consuming energy drinks with copious amounts of caffeine, individuals should be cautious. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and even cardiac arrest. Symptoms of having too much caffeine include jitters, nausea, sweating, anxiety and increased thirst.