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Energy Drinks Are Out of Control

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Lithuania, Latvia, Turkey and Poland have also introduced blanket bans on the sale of energy drinks to under-18s, with a UK government ban consultation stalled during the pandemic.

These moves are a response to a modern trend – the rise of increasingly strong drinks – but are also part of a pattern that dates back more than a century. The United States Department of Agriculture expressed concerns as early as 1909 about the excessive amounts of caffeine in Coca-Cola. The U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act was amended in 1912, adding caffeine to the list of “addiction-forming” substances that should be clearly included. announced on food labels. As a result, Coca-Cola halved its caffeine content.

Today, Coca-Cola would barely register as an energy drink, with 34 mg of caffeine per 12 ounce serving. (Diet Coke contains slightly more caffeine, at 46 mg per 12 ounces.) Some caffeinated drinks of the same size available today contain 300 to 400 mg.

“Energy drinks are as safe as a donut: An occasional donut is fine, but if you eat too many you’ll exceed the recommended amount of calories, sugar and fat,” says nutritional therapist and author Ian Marber.

Marber explains that caffeine has a similar chemical structure to adenosine, a substance that is part of the process of creating energy and acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. “Essentially, adenosine promotes sleep, but metabolites in caffeine prevent it from doing its job and promoting alertness,” he explains. “This in turn triggers the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol, which make us feel alert and capable.” The effects can last about four hours and can be useful in small doses. But cross the boundaries and you may experience anxiety, fatigue and interrupted sleep patterns.

“What makes a substance toxic is the dose,” says Alex Ruani, doctoral researcher at University College London and lead science lecturer at the Academy of Health Sciences. Coffee is packed with caffeine – 66 mg for a ‘tall’ Americano or latte at Starbucks in Britain, 150 mg in the US – but “most energy drinks contain exorbitant amounts of caffeine, ranging from 60 milligrams to 200 milligrams plus,” she says . say.

The added ingredients in some energy drinks not only contain high amounts of caffeine, but can also be harmful. “Energy drinks often contain other stimulants such as B vitamins, L-carnitine, L-theanine and glucuronolactone,” says Ruani. “When combined, drinkers are faced with a potentially dangerous cocktail that can disrupt several body systems, including the brain and heart.” It is also possible to become addicted to it. “Both sugar And caffeine have addictive properties,” says Ruani.

The road to hell… is paved with influencers

The popularity of energy drinks has been on the rise for decades – and much of their success rests not on their sweet, stimulating formulas, but on their marketing.

Lucozade (then called Glucozade), perhaps the first drink that would be considered an energy drink by modern standards, was launched in 1927. But it wasn’t until the rise of Red Bull in 1987 that energy drinks began to acquire their modern associations – first with extreme sports and then gaming. Energy drinks were no longer just a health booster, as once advertised, but an essential part of the lifestyle.

Red Bull, which sold more than 11 billion cans in 2022, and Monster Energy are the top two energy drinks in the United States, with Celsius, Bang Energy and Rockstar rounding out the most popular choices. Red Bull is also Britain’s biggest energy drink, with sales of £349 million ($445 million) in 2023, well ahead of its nearest rival, Monster, with £289 million. Globally, the energy drink market is expected to be worth $108.4 billion by 2031, up from $45.8 billion in 2020.

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