Are energy drinks good for health?

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The debate has been on since they came to the market. Some argue that they are harmful to health; others say they are not. The jury is still out on the suitability or otherwise of these drinks, reports Raji RotimI Solomon.

Are energy drinks what the makers claim they are? The producers claim that they are energy boosters good for busy executives, The drums they say, are not harmful to health despite being rich in caffeine. Therein lies the problem. Those against these products say they are too high in caffeine, which excessive intake is dangerous to health.

The suitability is otherwise of these products is always a subject of debate among people. In offices, at parties, homes and joints, there is always a heated debate over the consumption of these drinks.

Now a member of the House of Representatives Yacoob Bush-Alebiosu is set for battle over these drinks which he claims are dangerous to health. His move has given those in the energy drinks market the shivers. What will happen to the drinks? Are they on their way out? These are some of the questions being asked.

What does Bush-Alebiosu find bad in these drinks?

According to him, they have a life threatening effect on blood pressure, heart and brain functions. The abuse of the drinks among youth might cause mid-age mortality in the nearest future. He noted that it is mixed with alcohol to serve as suppressant, making the takers to consume more alcohol than the body can take under normal circumstances.

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Depending on where they stand, not everybody agree with Bush-Alebiosu.

A consumer, Mayowa Oluwatomi, said: “If this is indeed dangerous to the health, then it shouldn’t have been granted sale and distribution license in the first place. How they are NAFDAC approved? Is it that the agency didn’t do its home-work before now? Secondly, I feel they should ban cigarettes instead of energy drinks, cigarettes are more dangerous to the health than caffeinated drinks. These are relevant points raised with no answers for now.

Energy drinks came into the country some years ago with Lucozade boost, this particular drink was associated with sick people who need energy supplement for them to gain strength. This was one of GlaxoSmithKline’s fast selling product.

It came first in dotted breakable bottles which later evolved to tetra paks. Orange Drugs came up with their own brand of energy drink, Passion, which came in sachets with powdery solution, an improvement to what was obtainable before.

The acceptance was wide since it was more handy and cheaper. Not too long, the market became more competitive with the influx of different brands of energy drinks in cans. The likes of Power Horse, Hype, Red bull, Hippo, Climax, Kiss, London Best, and the rest became regular features at parties, bars and clubs.

Some discoveries were made by drinkers which actually boost the popularity and sale of energy drinks in the country. These claims are not scientifically proven but they are generally accepted.

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Many youth believe it works as an aphrodisiac, they believe it enhances sexual ability. Another fact that makes energy drink a toast, among youth, is the ability to mask alcohol.

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol, suppresses the alcoholic effect making a consumer drink more than his or her gauge without feeling the tipsiness.

An advertising guru, Mr. Idowu Esan, who has over the years handled several energy drink brands, gave a thorough analysis based on his opinion and experience of the drink.

He said: “Let us face it, anything that we take without caution would always have repercussions. Water, as vital as it is to human survival, if taken without moderation would become harmful to the body.

First there is no record of death or injury traceable to the consumption of energy drink to substantiate the Reps claim. Again, all the countries that were stated to have banned energy drinks still sell and distribute.

He stressed the danger in caffeine but he forgot to highlight the advantages of caffeine. Of course everybody knows that anything that has a negative side would also have the positive side.

• Japanese researchers have shown that caffeine increases memory;

• Caffeine mixed with carbs replenishes muscle glycogen concentrations faster after exercise;

• Caffeine detoxes the liver and cleanses the colon when taken as a caffeine enema;

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• Caffeine can stimulate hair growth on balding men and women;

• Caffeine relieves post workout muscle pain by 48 per cent;

• Caffeine increases stamina during exercise.

These and much more are the benefits of caffeine, so it has nutritional and health benefits. Moreover, coffee contains more caffeine than energy drink, it’s not a reason to ban caffeine. Most energy drinks in Nigeria are approved by National Agency for Food and Drugs (NAFDAC), and all these they have checked and certified.

The same thing with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON). To complement my points, if you check for example Power-Horse you would see an instruction that states pregnant women, children, people that are sensitive to caffeine or diabetic patients should not take the drink. These instructions are to put moderation and to reduce possible health risks that might be associated with the drink for some particular people.”

Another consumer at a bar in Egbeda, Justice Umeh said: “I mix energy drink with my spirit but it is not for suppressing the alcoholic effect but for the taste it gives me. Secondly, I want to drink alcohol and still maintain my mental alertness and I have discovered that this mixture actually does this to me. I kill two birds with a stone.”

A nutritionist, Nneka Ajomale, said caffeine actually works as antioxidant which is very good for the health if taken moderately, and surprisingly these energy drinks contain it.”

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