Energy drinks

Energy drinks: pause before you imbibe, advises ADSA

South Africa’s official dietetics association has urged people to approach energy drinks with caution – warning the public that they can pose serious health risks, including raised blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, sleep disturbances and dangers to pregnancy.

Says Berna Harmse, registered dietitian and president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), “Energy drinks have a high caffeine content, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate. The drinks may also contain combinations of ingredients; such as guarana, taurine, yerba mate, gingko biloba and ginseng.”

Harmse says energy drinks differ from sports drinks and enhanced waters. The ingredients in energy drinks have raised concerns about toxicity and potentially serious adverse effects. Data on the consumption patterns of people who use these products is not readily available, but as they are widely available users may include at risk populations such as children, adolescents and pregnant women.

The caffeine content of these drinks is only part of the risk profile, she adds; the other ingredients may be unregulated and under studied. In particular their impact on health when combined with caffeine and each other is not carefully considered.

Harmse encourages members of the public to consider the impact of excess caffeine consumption on their health. This is especially true for those people who are sensitive to caffeine, to children and adolescents and pregnant women. “If a product does not have a label with its caffeine content do not buy it. Rather buy from manufacturers who are happy to provide product information to consumers,” she comments.

Adults can consume about 400mg of caffeine per day. “It is not a nutrient – you do not require caffeine in your diet.  Caffeine is not stored in the body; it will be excreted in the urine. It does have a diuretic effect and drinks with a high caffeine content may predispose the consumer to dehydration.

“If you are often tired and use these products to make it through the day, consider making changes in your lifestyle. Sleep deprivation cannot be reversed by anything other than sleep,” advises Harmse.

“Always be sure to start the day with a nutritious breakfast to prepare yourself for the day, plan what you will eat during the day so as not to resort to quick fix, nutrient poor meals and snacks. Exercise may seem like a tall order when you are tired – but it could provide the boost you need,” she adds.

Making sustainable positive changes to your eating plan and lifestyle will have positive long term effects on energy and health,” concludes Harmse.