Just jonesin’ for that extra caffeine kick

New energy drinks, high in caffeine and sugar, still being reviewed by Health Canada

With exam period looming and essays accumulating, students may be looking for that extra boost of energy, that extra jolt to get them through a long night. Energy drinks are now readily available on campus, placed alongside other common beverages like Coke and Pepsi.

For David Lobo, ArtSci ’07, the appeal of energy drinks is their ability to keep him awake.

“Last year I didn’t like them [energy drinks] at all. Now they suffice if I want to get studying done,” he said.

Health Canada has raised published literature about the risks involved in the consumption of these beverages.

“‘Energy drinks’ should not be confused with sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade, which re-hydrate the body,” the Health Canada website said.

Energy drinks dehydrate the body. Thus, according to Health Canada, it is imperative to drink enough water to re-hydrate the body, particularly for individuals participating in physical activity.

On a physiological level, energy drinks consumed in excessive amounts, can be detrimental to your health.

“Drinks with substances that stimulate the heart can lead to arrhythmias, which can be fatal,” said Dr. Luis Melo, Queen’s physiology professor.

Other effects of energy drinks, according to Health Canada, include nausea, vomiting and electrolyte disturbances.

“Electrolytes maintain salt and potassium balances in the body,” the website said.

Health Canada recommends that the average adult consume no more than 400 to 450 milligrams of caffeine a day.

A can of Full Throttle for example contains about 72 milligrams of caffeine as indicated on the label. A 16 oz. can of Rockstar Energy Drink is 80 milligrams. According to redbull.com, Red Bull Energy Drink contains approximately the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. An eight oz. cup of coffee contains about 150 milligrams of caffeine. An eight oz. cup of blended tea has 43 milligrams, while an eight oz. cup of green tea has 30 milligrams of caffeine.

Paul Duchesne, spokesperson for Health Canada the caffeine content listed on the product may not seem high, there is a chance that there is actually more caffeine than you think.

“Some of the caffeine from energy drinks may come from herbs such as guarana. The label on these drinks would list the herbs as ingredients but the caffeine in the herbs may not be listed as a separate ingredient,” he said.

According to Duchesne, Health Canada is still in the process of assessing the various energy drinks on the market. As it stands now, the only energy drink with Health Canada’s approval is Red Bull. This is indicated by a Natural Health Product (NHP) number, which can be found on the product itself. Any product registered as a natural health product needs to be subject to a review of their quality and safety. Jeffrey Lalonde, a registered dietician and instructor of Basic Human Nutrition (HLTH 131), said in an e-mail to the that it isn’t just the caffeine content in the energy drinks that should be considered, but also the sugar content and the lack of nutrients.

“Many of the energy drinks also contain the equivalent of 5 teaspoons of sugar per can, which is taking the place of calories one could get from nutrient dense foods such as an apple or a banana,” he said.

Lalonde also said that much of the concern surrounding energy drinks is about the marketing of these products.

“I think the overall concern with energy drinks is the marketing, which emphasizes the drinks’ ability to improve your performance in virtually all aspects of your life,” he said.

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