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Health Busters

The ‘high’ and low of an Energy Drink!

The World Cup that made football a global phenomenon turns 80 year this. The quadrennial event has ignited the spirits of millions of enthusiasts, riding high on their passion. Somewhere in a metropolitan highrise apartment, Kunal, Prithvi and Anoushka, three young football buffs got together for watching a magnificent, magnanimous match on the big tube.

Kunal: Hey guys, I am really excited about today’s match!

Prithvi: You bet! And Anoushka, are you sure you want to be a part of this high-on -adrenaline action?

Anoushka: Why not? Don’t think a girl can’t be passionate about football! And guess what, I even took care of the mid-match snacking. The food and drinks are on me!

Kunal & Prithvi(ecstatic): So what’s the menu? Hope no chips and juice! We need some high-on-energy stuff here…

Anoushka: Trust you boys to underestimate me. Here, grab your energy drinks!

Kunal: Not bad. Not bad at all Anu! So now, we are one of those mighty players who are seen spotting energy drinks, huh? But I have to admit, I don’t really know what this drink is all about. I just know how energy drinks are catching the fancy of the youth, for fighting fatigue and feeling ‘high’!

Anoushka: I appreciate your modesty, Kunal! Well, to put it simply, an energy drink is a soft drink designed to give you an immediate shot of energy. Essentially, most of the ‘energy’ comes from two main ingredients: Sugar and Caffeine. A typical energy drink can contain up to 80 milligrams of caffeine, about the same amount as a cup of coffee. By comparison, an average soft drink contains 18 to 48 mg of caffeine. Although most manufacturers claim that energy drinks improve ones endurance and performance, many health experts, from across the globe, disagree. Any boost one gets from drinking an energy drink is solely from the sugar and caffeine.

Prithvi: I am impressed Anu, I must say! So, now that you are our information guru, what’s the big deal about caffeinated drinks? Just the other day, there was a news report talking about the dangers of high energy shots. Drinks containing high levels of caffeine are unsuitable for youngsters, especially teenagers, pregnant women and people sensitive to caffeine, right?

Anoushka: Well, the effects of caffeine have been exhaustively studied. Over 2,000 articles have appeared in scientific journals the last two years alone. When consumed in high doses, caffeine could lead to irritability, anxiety, tremors, dizziness and insomnia and some people may experience short-term anxiety effects if consuming more than 3mg of caffeine daily for each kilogram of body weight.

This means that an adult should not drink more than two standard cups a day and for most healthy adults, up to 400 mg of caffeine in total a day.

Kunal: Yeah, I remember reading something on how caffeine really works in our body. Caffeine works by changing the chemistry of the brain. It blocks the action of a natural brain chemical that is associated with sleep. Tthe chemical adenosine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain.

The binding of adenosine causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. In the brain, adenosine binding also causes blood vessels to dilate, presumably to let more oxygen in during sleep. Adenosine is produced by our daily activity. To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine.

Caffeine, therefore, binds to the adenosine receptors. However, it doesn't slow down the cell's activity as adenosine would. The cells cannot sense adenosine anymore because caffeine is taking up all the receptors adenosine binds to. So instead of slowing down because of the adenosine level, the cells speed up. And eventually, we feel charged up!

Prtihvi: Ok people, I think we’ve had enough gyaan! Now, can we please get started with the match!

Anoushka: Yes sure! But please remember, drinking an energy drink on an occasional fun evening like today is fine, but you shouldn’t be indulging in it. Concerns have been raised on the content of caffeine in energy drinks, and whether it adheres to permissible limits. The US Food and Drug Administration allows a concentration of 200 parts per million caffeine in these (non-alcoholic) beverages, and bans the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages. However, many people mix energy drinks with alcohol. And that poses serious health and safety hazards.

Please understand there are better, healthier and natural ways to boost ones energy. Nothing works better than getting adequate sleep, including physical activity in ones daily routine and eating a healthy diet!

The Indian Energy Drink Market
It is interesting to note that the energy drink market in India is worth Rs 250 Crore and growing at an annual rate of 40-50 per cent. According to a recent report published in livemint.com, there is a lot of scope for growth for this segment. Indian consumers drink an estimated 120 billion liters of beverages, of which only 4 per cent are ready-to-drink packaged ones.

  Ingredients found in popular energy drinks and what they do in the body  

  • Ephedrine: A stimulant that works on the central nervous system. It is a common ingredient in weight-loss products and decongestants, but there have been concerns about its effects on the heart.
  • Taurine: A natural amino acid produced by the body that helps regulate heart beat and muscle contractions. Many health experts aren't sure what effect it has as a drink additive.
  • Ginseng: A root believed by some to have several medicinal properties, including reducing stress and boosting energy levels.
  • B-vitamins: A group of vitamins that can convert sugar to energy and improve muscle tone.
  • Guarana seed: A stimulant that comes from a small shrub native to Venezuela and Brazil.
  • Carnitine: An amino acid that plays a role in fatty acid metabolism.
  • Creatine: An organic acid that helps supply energy for muscle contractions
  • Inositol: A member of the vitamin B complex (not a vitamin itself, because the human body can synthesize it) that helps relay messages within cells in the body.
  • Ginkgo biloba: Made from the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree, thought to enhance memory.


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