By Cal Purdon, The Linc
In today’s society, we like to know where our food comes from. We cry out for free-range meat and organic vegetables, yet we continue to consume drinks with potent ingredients we know little about. Names of energy drink ingredients such as taurine and aspartame may sound vaguely familiar, but where they come from and what they do to the body are rarely given a second thought.
The organic acid taurine is a key ingredient in many popular energy drinks including Red Bull and Rockstar. It was also used this year in Limited Edition Snickers Charged energy chocolate and candy bars.
Taurine is a major component of bile. It’s produced by the body where it is usually found in the lower intestine. When this acid is mixed with caffeine, the results it can have on the body are questionable.
Red Bull came under investigation by the Swedish government in 1991 when three people died after drinking it. One person consumed it during a rigorous exercise routine, while the others mixed the drink with alcohol. However, a link between the events and the taurine within the drink was not established.
The same drink also came into question in 1991 when 18-year-old Irish basketball player Ross Cooney collapsed on the court and died after drinking four cans of Red Bull. Although a direct connection was not proven, this incident caused some countries, including France, to pull the drink from shelves.
Regardless of these events, this popular beverage continues to thrive. More than three billion cans of Red Bull were sold in over 130 countries in 2006 alone.
Another controversial energy drink component, aspartame, is a calorie-free artificial sweetener. Aspartame is used in nearly 6,000 consumer foods and drinks worldwide, including many soft drinks.
Although the European Food Safety Authority reaffirmed the safety of aspartame in 2006, the health effects caused by this sweetener are still under extensive investigation. Up until 1981, aspartame was not accepted in dry foods due to the brain tumours and seizures produced by the substance in lab animals. Aspartame has also recently been linked through scientific evidence to leukaemia and lymphoma.
The main component of an energy drink is, of course, caffeine. Other common elements are B vitamins, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, creatine and guarana, which also contains large quantities of caffeine.
Cocaine Energy Drink was launched in the UK this year containing 280mg caffeine, or eight times as much caffeine as a can of soda. Energy drinks with more than 150mg caffeine per litre are labelled “high caffeine content,” but there is no limit to the amount and drinks are not required to carry caffeine overdose warnings.
While consuming energy drinks from time to time cannot cause caffeine addiction, two or more cans a day can heighten the risk. Some side effects that can result from excessive caffeine consumption include irritability, insomnia, stomach upset, irregular heartbeat and nervousness.
So when you are stressed out about your next exam and instinctively reach for your favourite energy drink, think twice. You may just be better off with an old-fashioned study session followed by a good night’s sleep.Tweet