Energy drinks: The risky caffeine kick

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Health risk from excessive consumption of energy drinks

Energy drinks have enjoyed increasing popularity for years and are being launched in ever new variations. At the end of July, the Stiftung Warentest had therefore already carried out a comprehensive study of the supposedly performance-enhancing fashion drinks and given the energy drinks a somewhat unpleasant testimony. Despite promising names and ingredients, the drinks showed no demonstrable performance-enhancing effects that would go beyond the effects of caffeine and sugar, and "who drinks energy drinks in cans is harmful to health", according to the result of the Stiftung Warentest.

According to the Stiftung Warentest, many consumers expect the energy drinks to be "more perseverance for party nights" and "more top performance in sports". Energy drinks are particularly popular with young people. The manufacturer Red Bull last year "sold 5.2 billion cans of its gummy bear shower worldwide", reports the Stiftung Warentest. International brands such as Coca Cola and Pepsi are now also offering corresponding energy drinks. According to the Stiftung Warentest, sales growth is in the double-digit percentage range. No other non-alcoholic beverage has "increased sales in 2012 as strongly as energy drinks." The Stiftung Warentest therefore took a closer look at the power showers and examined 24 energy drinks and a so-called energy shot in the laboratory.

Nervousness and heart problems as a side effect of the energy drinks According to the Stiftung Warentest, the energy drinks advertise primarily with their vital-sounding names such as "Energy Rocket", "Flying Power" or "Speedstar" and the exotic-looking ingredients such as taurine, inositol or glucuronolactone . So far, however, there is no scientific evidence that "even one of these ingredients has a performance-enhancing effect." The stimulating effect of the energy drinks is more likely due to two tried and tested ingredients. Sugar, which serves as a source of energy, and caffeine, which has a stimulating effect on the cardiovascular functions. However, an excess of caffeine could lead to “side effects such as restlessness, nervousness, nausea, insomnia, rapid heartbeat”, explains the Stiftung Warentest. According to the testers, the risk of “caffeine overdose from energy drinks is relatively high.” Children, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and people sensitive to caffeine should avoid them altogether due to the high caffeine content.

A maximum of 320 milligrams of caffeine per liter are permissible It is only since June 2013 that the fruit juice and soft drinks regulations have regulated what constitutes an energy drink in Germany, reports the Stiftung Warentest. Accordingly, the energy drinks are defined as caffeinated soft drinks, which may contain a maximum of 320 milligrams of caffeine per liter. Since then, maximum levels have also applied to other commonly used ingredients, such as taurine 4,000 milligrams, inositol 200 milligrams or glucuronolactone 2,400 milligrams per liter. In one of the energy drinks tested (for the "High Performance Energy Drink NOS"), the permissible maximum limit for caffeine with 560 milligrams of caffeine per liter was significantly exceeded. According to the manufacturer, the drink has now been taken off the market in Germany. In addition, taurine levels above nine were measured in nine of the 24 energy drinks, which is less critical to health and is also permitted for beverages that were produced before the June reporting date, reports the Stiftung Warentest.

More than half of young people consume energy drinks The Stiftung Warentest also referred to a study by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), which for the first time collected Europe-wide data on the consumption habits of energy drinks. A total of more than 52,000 people from 16 EU member states were interviewed, and it turned out that one in three adults in Europe consumes energy drinks, "one in ten even four to five times a week or more," reports the Stiftung Warentest. The drinks are particularly popular with the 10 to 19 year olds. 68 percent of them would consume the power shower regularly, and one in ten would also use it several times a week. The testers rated it as extremely critical that every second adult and adolescent takes the energy drinks together with alcohol. Also almost as many would enjoy the artificial shower while doing sports. “Misuse is therefore not the exception, but rather a frightening rule,” says the Stiftung Warentest. The fact that even under 10 year olds consume energy drinks, although caffeine is not suitable for children, is extremely worrying. Comprehensive legal regulations seem to be urgently needed here in order to avoid potential health risks for adolescents. (fp)

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