Something that happened two Fridays ago, precisely March 9th , completely changed our lead story for this week. There are stories that can wait but some can not really wait. This one cannot, because of the life-saving message which must be passed on. On the said date, as we sat down to some refreshing soft drinks and barbecued meat, we observed some men mixing energy drinks and stout at the popular Anchor bar in the Ikeja.
As the fairly well dressed middle aged men downed their drinks in relish, oblivious that they had gotten our attention, a cardiologist surgeon with the University Teaching Hospital Enugu, Dr Okey Maduebo, opened his mouth in horror and pity.
“Do these men know the implication of what they are drinking? How can people just dig their own grave?” asked the cardiologist while still staring at the men who did not even take cognisance of the presence of other people in the bar.
Still aghast, he questioned: “How can anyone mix an alcoholic beverage and energy drink? That combination will place a lot of stress on the heart. They are mixing stimulant [energy drink] with a depressant [alcohol]. The body will basically be fighting itself to act one way or the other.”
Introducing himself, he asked if he could join them. As far as the men were concerned, they did not see any danger associated with their actions. They were just looking for a quick way to get ‘high’.
“After a hard day’s job and with the economic down turn in the country, what do you expect us to do? Do you want us to die of hypertension? Stout is not strong enough for me; though I cherish the taste, I still need a stimulant like Red bull or monkey shoulder to get it to the strength I want.” explained one of the men who simply identified himself as Jide.
Though we have published stories on this page about energy drinks, we are being compelled to feature this story because of the above incident.
A lot is being said about energy drinks. Most consumers just take the energy drinks for that burst of extra energy without knowing the side effects. Recently, a study published in the journal ‘Drug and Alcohol Dependence’ warned that adolescents and young adults who consume many energy drinks are much more likely to use cocaine and amphetamines later in life.
According to the study, people who drank large volumes of the highly caffeinated beverages were also much more likely to develop alcoholism than their peers.
Participants on the mid to high end of the spectrum studied had a significantly higher risk of moving on to drugs like cocaine and other stimulates.
Consumers should also take note of some of the common ingredients that are added to these drinks for that quick energy boost.
- Caffeine: The gold star in energy boosts, caffeine is commonly found in coffee and soft drinks to keep you alert and awake. It has been suggested that a combination of caffeine and taurine provides the mental and physical boost one would hope to obtain after consuming an energy drink.
- Taurine: This is a type of amino acid commonly found in energy drinks, and enhances neurological function.
- Vitamin B group. Various Vitamin B groups are commonly found on labels of energy drinks, as most of them enhance muscular, metabolic, nervous, and other bodily functions.
Here are some reasons why you should stay away from energy drinks:
- Weight gain: Since pre-packaged energy drinks are often filled with high levels of sugar, they can be calorie bombs. Excessive sugar intake, when left unchecked, can lead to obesity, which opens the gateway for many other chronic medical problems. Be sure to treat energy drinks as rare, last-resort, energy-boosting options rather than part of your regular daily diet.
- Cardiovascular problems: Those who overdose on energy drinks are at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular problems, such as irregular, rapid heartbeat, and increased blood pressure. The worst case scenario would be heart failure.
- Psychological hindrances: While that occasional energy drink can help enhance alertness, too much may actually decrease your ability to function. Nervousness, irritability and anxiety can increase overtime, as well as the uncomfortable and distracting “jitters” common in that of an over-caffeinated person. Insomnia or disruptive sleep cycles can also develop, which can lead to a lower quality of life over all.
- Potential metabolic issues: When you drink an energy drink, you are encumbering your body to metabolise and process the overwhelming amount of vitamins, additives and sugars. Your body goes into overdrive and produces stress hormones to help cope with the task at hand. Over time, this inward and outward stress on your body can be more detrimental than helpful as metabolic issues may arise and lead to medical complications.
- Dependence: Energy drinks can be highly addictive if used excessively on a daily basis. Withdrawal symptoms may be present if someone tries to stop, including headaches and mood swings.
If you feel like an energy drink is still for you, be sure to utilise these tips when choosing a drink:
- Try to limit energy drink intake to about 16 ounces, or 500 millilitres per day.
- Drink plenty of water with an energy drink, as they are not meant to replenish your fluids but to give you a jolt of energy instead.
- Stay away from energy drinks if you have underlying health conditions, such as pregnancy or cardiovascular problems.
- Energy drinks are not recommended for young children.
- Never mix energy drinks with alcohol. Although it is often a popular cocktail concoction, it can place a lot of stress on your body and heart, as you are mixing a stimulant (energy drink) with a depressant (alcohol). Your body will basically be fighting itself to act one way or the other.
Energy drinks are fine when consumed in moderation. Habitual energy drink users may be better off with one to two cups of good old fashioned coffee as a more natural alternative without the additives and sugar. Seek a doctor’s opinion if you are constantly feeling fatigued or feel you’ve grown a dependency for energy drinks. Medical conditions, such as anaemia, can make a person more tired than usual.
– The Nation