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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Energy drinks may not be worth the boost


Energy drinks pose a variety of health risks to consumers.  |  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Energy drinks pose a variety of health risks to consumers. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 30 percent of college students consume energy drinks regularly, according to a study featured in The New York Times. As the semester comes to an end, many students are relying on energy drinks more often.

Some students work part-time jobs in addition to taking a full course load and use energy drinks to keep going. Advertising sophomore Marcus Rivera is no exception.

“Sometimes I would have to work anywhere from 20 to 40 hours (a week). That’s when I would usually take them,” Rivera said.

Some energy drinks claim to keep consumers awake for five hours — time that could be used to complete assignments or study. But according to Mary Rae, chief physician at the University Health Center, the amount of caffeine in energy drinks could be harmful.

“The main concern is the high dose of caffeine in these drinks. With soft drinks, the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) can regulate the caffeine content,” Rae said. “But when it comes to energy drinks, they can’t, so you don’t know how much you’re getting.”

Side effects of energy drinks include anxiety, headache, nausea, diarrhea, insomnia and an elevated heart rate. With a background of more than 20 years in emergency medicine, Rae has seen and dealt with complications caused by caffeine consumption.

The Health Center experiences an increase of students with toxicity levels and caffeine withdrawal around exam times.

“Withdrawal symptoms can include fatigue, headache and depression. Students usually think they’ll feel better in an hour, but it can actually take up to 24 hours to get back to normal,” Rae said.

Two-thirds of energy drink consumers use energy drinks as mixers with alcoholic beverages, according to a recent study by the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions.

“I usually mix in some red bull when I drink vodka because it helps cut the taste, but it also gives me more energy throughout the night,” said accounting junior David Duncan.

Energy drinks can give many students a false sense of security by masking their level of intoxication as their energy levels continue rise, according to an article from The New York Times.

“Alcohol lowers your inhibition while energy drinks stimulate you, and this might lead students to partake in dangerous activities,” Rae said.

There are safer and healthier alternatives out there for students, Rae said. Regular exercise can help increase energy levels, Rae said, and caffeine consumption in the recommended dosage can also help.

For severe levels of fatigue, it is encouraged to get a medical evaluation as it could be a symptom of a larger problem such as depression.

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