The energy drink as we know it today started in 1962 as a simple tonic from Japan known as Lipovitan D. Its purpose? To keep truck drivers and factory workers awake during their long shifts. Since then, it has evolved into an energy booster, a concentration increaser, and an alertness and performance enhancer which pulls many students through Save the Semester. However, this seasonal staple is becoming many students’ daily bread. The market within the student community is growing exponentially. While it is not enough to put Vida out of business, it is enough that one can catch a Play or Red Bull activation in the Piazza enough times to have two nickels – which isn’t a lot. But…It is sufficient to mark energy drinks as having a significant impact on the student body (literally).

While students can and should appreciate a Switch’s ability to power them through a two-hour lecture, they must also remain informed. Energy drinks are highly caffeinated and stocked with sugar. According to The South African Food Based Dietary guidelines, the recommended caffeine intake sits at 300mg per day. On average, a 500ml can of just about any energy drink contains 160mg, which is more than half one’s daily intake. The presence of these ingredients in such sizable quantities in combination with the overconsumption of these beverages is a cause for several health concerns.

It’s giving heart condition
Possible side effects of consuming beverages with high caffeine content include the short-term increase in blood pressure, heart palpitations and heart rate, according to Healthline. These occurrences within the cardiovascular system mean that an individual’s heart is working extra hard to pump blood throughout the body. This leads to an increased risk of experiencing strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure and aneurysms.

H2O: Just need water
Taurine, a common ingredient in energy drinks, has diuretic effects which means that it helps the body get rid of salt and water. While energy drinks may ‘Vitalize your body and mind’, many of the  ingredients listed, Taurine being one, contribute to increased urination that leads to dehydration. Dehydration can lead to urinary and kidney issues such as kidney failure, kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Students are already facing kidney-related health risks due to our notoriously high levels of alcohol consumption. Energy drinks are adding fuel to the fire.

What even is sleep?
Caffeine acquires its ‘keep me up’ quality by disrupting the regular production and effects of sleep related hormones. According to Harvard School of Public Health, the effects of adenosine (the deep sleep hormone) is blocked by caffeine while the presence of melatonin is significantly reduced. These hormonal alterations can impact sleep quality, especially when consuming energy drinks late at night just before bed. Additionally, caffeine’s aspect of keeping one alert has also resulted in the worsening of insomnia.

Not a want, but a need!
The line between addiction and dependence as it relates to caffeine is very fine. Caffeine is unable to ignite the specific brain parts related to addiction and thus is not considered addictive according to Insider’s ‘10 signs you’re drinking way too much caffeine’. However, there are enough students on campus who are barely functional before their first Monster to cause alarm. A feeling of grogginess, headaches and the obvious lack of productivity are common symptoms associated with caffeine dependence.

The few health concerns mentioned are not intended to scare the student body out of purchasing energy drinks. The aim is to educate students and make us more mindful of our consumption. The easiest way to do this is by adhering to the daily intake recommendations. One energy drink a day, preferably when the sun is up in the sky, is reasonable. Even opting for the sugar free options helps with bringing down one’s sugar intake. Of course, there is the choice of consuming alternatives that are not caffeine based. Vita-thion, Slow-Mag, Berocca and Bioplus are all great energy boosting options that are convenient and well-portioned (but please mix these with water and not Play because that would defeat the whole purpose!).

Ultimately, student life demands entirely too much energy. The need for a little something extra to get you through the day is no crime, however the consciousness around students’ consumption is important.

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