Fall Finals Edition

Caffeine stirs up caution – if not used carefully

In response to The New York Time’s investigative article into caffeinated beverages in November, many have worried about the negative affects of energy drinks on the body. But coffee addicts and energy drink freaks can calm down; there is nothing wrong with caffeine — in moderation.

According to incident reports submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, energy drinks were linked to more than a dozen deaths in the last four years. Scores of separate files linked these energy drinks to serious occurrences like heart attacks and strokes.

Monster Energy Drink caught the brunt of the negative flack. Other brands, like Red Bull Energy Drink and 5-hour Energy Shot, suffered similar public relations fiascos.

The news reports failed to make clear correlation does not imply causation. The Times mentioned a 14-year-old who died of cardiac arrhythmia caused by caffeine toxicity after drinking two 710 milliliter cans of Monster Energy.

But the teenager had a pre-existing heart condition and Ehlers–Danlos syndrome, an inherited connective tissue disorder. Ingesting 475 milligrams of caffeine was irresponsible.

Even if energy drinks caused a dozen other deaths in four years — which there is no proof of — there is no cause for panic.

A few deaths out of hundreds of thousands of consumers is a good track record compared to other stimulants like cigarettes and alcohol.

Consumers should be more concerned about the sugar content and over-saturation of vitamins found in most energy drinks. The recommended daily allowance of sugar for the human body is 40 grams.

One can of Red Bull contains about 30 grams of sugar. A can of green Monster Energy contains about 60 grams. The kidneys and liver can only take so much abuse.

My advice for people who need energy drinks to perform well in school: Sleep and study will never be second fiddle. When it comes to healthy stimulants, little else is superior to a cup of black coffee.

Coffee shops like Starbucks Coffee Company have spoiled consumers with overpriced, froth-filled frappuccinos of cream and sugar for years. It’s time to go back to basics.

Most cannot stand the bitter taste, admittedly, but don’t blame black coffee. Black coffee is cheap and naturally sugar-free. It contains on average 100 milligrams of caffeine. Perhaps most importantly, it is only five calories per six ounces.

But if black coffee doesn’t cut it, don’t waste money on a $3 drink. Over-the-counter caffeine pills can be found at any pharmacy or dollar store. They’re cheap, effective and aren’t stuffed with the unreasonable amount of vitamins and minerals found in so many energy drinks.

While consuming these beverages, people should keep in mind one thing: Regardless of the medium — be it pill, energy shot or coffee — caffeine is a drug. It’s benign compared to cocaine and amphetamines, but it deserves respect. Treat it with such.

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