While popular among teenagers and young adults, the regular use of energy drinks can present dramatic health risks.
According to a 2010 survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study, more than half of adolescents and young adults drink at least one energy drink per month, with approximately 6 percent consuming energy drinks daily.
Energy drinks are typically loaded with caffeine and vitamins B6 and B12, long-familiar as nutritional supplements serving as energy boosters.
One can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine, similar to the amount in a typical cup of coffee, and double or even three times as much as some sodas on the market.
Karen Ediger, an R.N. and WIC coordinator at the McPherson County Health Department, said overuse of such products can have devastating effects on a teenager’s growth.
“When you give these sort of heavy caffeine beverages to teenagers who don’t tend to eat very well in the first place,” Ediger said, “the caffeine’s energy boost can work as an appetite suppressant, resulting in poor nutrition in a critical period of the body’s growth. In the long run, it can rob the body of the calcium and magnesium it needs to build strong, healthy bones.”
In terms of other ingredients, Vitamin B6 also has risks. Taking too much B6 can result in B6 toxicity, which can result in a variety of forms of sensor and motor neuropathy. including pain and numbness in extremities and difficulty with physical activities such as walking.
The Mayo Clinic’s recommended maximum daily allowance of vitamin B6 for 14-to-18-year-olds is 80mg/day. In comparison, a single shot of 5-Hour Energy contains 40mg of B6.
Advertising for energy drinks such as Monster and Red Bull tend to be aimed at a young teenage-to-early-twenties male demographic.
Casey’s General Stores, a chain of convenience stores based out of Ankeny, Iowa, has in place a decade-long standing corporate policy by which no one younger than the age of 18 can purchase the more potent energy boost products such as 5-Hour Energy and various pill-type products.
While energy boost products have been increasing in popularity with teens and young people, McPherson school district Associate Superintendent Chris Ruder is quick to point out they’re not available at the schools, and that, for now, they haven’t been brought up as a concern from building administrators.
“You’ll see some students drinking coffee, water or soda, but they’re limited even when they can get soda,” Ruder said. “Seniors have a half hour open window for lunch, but the rest of the student populace stay on the premises for the whole day, which definitely limits what they can get.”