The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

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    Energy Drinks…Do They Give You Wings or Create a Monster?


    An alarm blares loudly at 5:30 a.m.  Yet another school day has arrived and brings with it the same routine.  Many high school students find it next to impossible to get out of bed before the sun has even come up.  When a hot shower to wake up doesn’t quite do the trick, some teens turn to coffee for their energy source.  However, for those who find the bitter drink distasteful, a stronger alternative is sometimes brought out: energy drinks.

    Red Bull, Monster, and 5-hour Energy are just a few names of popular energy drinks, or rather, concoctions of sugar, caffeine, and potent stimulants.  The brand names and their slogans are strategically thought out.  When one is feeling exhausted, who wouldn’t turn to a beverage that supposedly “gives you wings” or one that has the name of Rockstar?  According to Forbes, a magazine that provides business news and financial information, a study was published last February in the journal of Pediatrics in Review that said the $5 billion energy drink industry advertises directly to adolescents.  Also found in this study were many health issues occurring with people that were directly associated with high caffeine consumption — including but not limited to insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.

    Ms. Cameron Traut, one of the nurses at LHS, has plenty of information to share about energy drinks and her experiences with students who have used them.  At a former school nursing job,  Ms. Traut had an encounter with a student who had come into her office feeling very sick.  “His heart was racing and he felt dizzy but didn’t know why…as it turned out, he had drank seven or eight Red Bulls in two hours,” Traut said.

    The student had a higher blood pressure than normal as well as a horrible stomach ache.  His experience is not uncommon.  Energy drinks provide for an awareness overload quickly, but negative effects are indeed felt even after the caffeine and stimulants are out of the system.  Many high school students know the feeling.

    Tanner Sanks, a senior, drinks energy drinks three to four times a week.  “I drink [energy drinks] because they help me pay attention in my classes.  I don’t get tired as easily if I have one in the morning,” Sanks said.

    When asked about how he physically felt after a few hours, Sanks replied, “I usually just want to lie down for awhile because they make me sort of light headed, especially if I’ve had more than one in a day.”

    So what exactly causes the negative aftermath of energy drinks?  Everything has to do with the ingredients that are found in them.  According to an article published in The New York Times last March, a 16-ounce can of an energy drink may contain 13 or more teaspoons of sugar and the amount of caffeine found in four Coca-Colas.  In addition to the large amounts of sugar and caffeine, the beverages include stimulants such as taurine, guarana seed extract, and B vitamins.

    “There’s guarana seed, which is two times more potent than the coffee bean.  Then there are the vitamin B complexes, typically in taurine, which are good for you in normal doses.  When you mix it all together and drink a high number of [energy drinks] it’s not a good combination,” said Ms. Traut.

    When the body takes in an overload of these types of ingredients, it can be put into a sort of shock.  Researchers from the University of Texas at Houston concluded in 2010 that the drinks could have poor effects on blood pressure, heart rate, and even brain function when taken in excess.

    Such side effects have occurred with sophomore Emily Jenner.  “I used to drink energy drinks every day because I didn’t like the taste of coffee yet, and I wound up having really bad headaches and my heart would beat way faster than normal,” said Jenner, who now drinks coffee instead.

    In moderation, it is unlikely that the drinks will negatively affect the body.  “Having a Monster every once in awhile isn’t harmful if the one drinking it has no pre-exposed medical conditions,” Ms. Traut said.  Even so, the included ingredients are never meant to be consumed in such high doses.  The body is perfectly capable of producing its own energy if treated well.

    Syd Foltz, a senior, doesn’t believe energy drinks are necessary.  “Besides the fact that I already have a lot of energy, I think energy drinks work for a little while but the crash you get after drinking them makes it not worth it.  I prefer drinking coffee instead to wake me up in the morning.”

    Many people question why the drinks are still produced and sold.  The FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, does not monitor the production of the energy drink industry.  Because it is unsupervised, manufacturing companies are not forced to write every ingredient on the labels.  In a lot of cases, consumers are taking in a much greater amount of stimulants than they are aware of, according to Ms. Traut.  The accurate list of ingredients can be found online, but may take a little time to find.  Many websites with information are based off of the manufacturer, which still may not provide the whole truth.

    Energy drinks are bad enough, but mixing them with alcohol is a serious risk that is becoming more and more popular amongst young adults.  The issue has been on the news in the last several months in hopes of making people aware of the dangers that can ensue as a result of this trend.

    Many college students use this method of binge drinking to fight the effects of alcohol while staying awake longer and thus drinking more.  Normally, one would get tired or pass out, a safety mechanism of the body to prevent alcohol poisoning, according to Ms. Traut.  When the stimulants in the energy drinks are mixed with alcohol, the blood toxicity levels continue to rise while the person is still alert and able to drink more.  Deaths have occurred due to this activity and it takes a dangerous toll on the body.

    Energy can be achieved without the consumption of caffeine and sugar-packed drinks.  The best alternative when it comes to having energy is a mixture of sleeping well, eating well, and hydrating well.  When rested, energy comes naturally.  A well-balanced diet provides the right amount of B vitamins, which are added in excess to energy drinks.  Water is needed to keep all organs functioning properly, and even minor dehydration can make one feel sluggish.

    Next time you head to the gas station to pick up a couple Red Bulls, you may want to think again.  They may give you wings for the time being, but will only bring you down in the end.

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    Energy Drinks…Do They Give You Wings or Create a Monster?