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The Energy Drink

By Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh for Science-Based Medicine

My stimulant of choice is coffee. I started drinking it in first-year university, and never looked back. A tiny four-cup coffee maker became my reliable companion right through graduate school.

But since I stopped needing to drink a pot at a time, an entirely new category of products has appeared — the energy drink. Targeting students, athletes, and others seeking a mental or physical boost, energy drinks are now an enormous industry: From the first U.S. product sale in 1997, the market size was $4.8 billion by 2008, and continues to grow. (1)

My precious coffee effectively has a single therapeutic ingredient, caffeine. Its pharmacology is well documented, and the physiologic effects are understood. The safety data isn’t too shabby either: it’s probably not harmful and possibly is even beneficial. (I’m talking about oral consumption — no coffee enemas. Please.) In comparison, energy drinks are a bewildering category of products with an array of ingredients including caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, and other “natural” substances and assorted “nutraceuticals,” usually in a sugar-laden vehicle (though sugar-free versions exist). Given many products contain chemicals with pharmacologic effects, understanding the risks, signs of adverse events, and potential implications on drug therapy, are important.

So are energy drinks just candied caffeine delivery systems? Or are these syrupy supplements skirting drug regulations?

The Message

The ads are seductive. Who doesn’t want more energy? Who doesn’t want their mind and body “vitalized?” And don’t we have time-starved lifestyles? Initially envisioned for athletes, energy drinks are now marketed mainly towards teens and young adults, where uptake has been dramatic. Cross-promotion with extreme sporting events, and creating names like “Full Throttle,” “Rockstar,” and even  “Cocaine” burnish the “extreme” image. The market is now segmented further with products targeted at women, vegetarians, diabetics, celiacs, and more. However you identify yourself, there’s probably an energy drink developed with you in mind. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Alcoholic Energy Drinks: Health Hazards And Bannings

In this video, you will see an interview I was asked to do on November 11th on local TV about alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko that has been in the news recently. I talk about the potential harmful effects of the ingredients of a product like this. As of this posting there have been a number of states, colleges, and universities who have taken steps to ban these type of beverages.


At the end of the interview, I talk about how I don’t think banning a product like this is going to solve the problem. In the article “Banning Four Loko Doesn’t Solve Problems,” Alex Belz from The North Wind explains:

It seems these health officials are either unaware of or choosing to ignore the fact that combining a caffeinated beverage with an alcoholic one is a time-tested formula for a decent drink. So far, they’ve not proposed banning drinks like Jager Bombs and vodka and Red Bulls from being served in bars, but perhaps that’s just around the corner.

As of this post, it has been only hours since the ban was announced in Washington State. Since the ban does not take effect for about seven days, guess what is happening? According to The Seattle Times, a “Buying Rush Follows Washington Ban On Four Loko.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

Nurses And Doctors Need Coffee The Most

The Coffee Tower by wrumsby via FlickrNurses and doctors depend on coffee to perform their jobs the most of any profession, reports a survey.

Nurses ranked first and doctors second when asked if they needed coffee to get through their day. The rest of the coffee-fueled careers were a mixed bag of white collar and blue collar positions. Among other findings:

– 48 percent of those in the Northeast said they were less productive without coffee, compared to 34 percent of Midwesterners.
– 40 percent of those aged 18 to 24 said they can’t concentrate as well without coffee.
– 37 percent said they drink two or more cups a day.

NOTE: The study was funded by CareerBuilder and Dunkin’ Donuts.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Why You Shouldn’t Mix Energy Drinks With Alcohol

What is it about our culture that encourages newer and riskier ways to challenge our health? Public health folks have become very concerned about the latest challenge – alcoholic energy drinks. These are prepackaged beverage with alcohol and caffeine, as well as other stimulants, that look like other energy drinks but carry a much more powerful, and dangerous, punch!

There were 500 new energy drink products introduced worldwide in 2006 with average sales topping $3.2 billion. These products are targeting youth by creating brand confusion with nonalcoholic versions; providing a cheap alternative to mixing energy drinks with alcohol; and using youth-friendly grassroots and viral marketing. The names of these products say it all – Rockstar, Sparks, and Tilt. Read more »

This post, Why You Shouldn’t Mix Energy Drinks With Alcohol, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

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