Q: Are energy drinks like Red Bull safe for my teenager to drink?
A: Energy drinks are very popular with teenagers. Energy drinks are beverages that claim to increase energy and performance. Since Red Bull debuted in 1997, energy drinks sales have increased to more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States.
Not to be confused with sports drinks, many energy drinks on the market contain caffeine, a variety of B vitamins and minerals, as well other ingredients such as taurine, glucuronolactone and guarana. The B vitamins are involved in energy metabolism, caffeine increases alertness and improves performance, taurine and glucuronolactone decrease fatigue and guarana is a natural source of caffeine. Also, be aware that energy drinks may contain lots of calories and no nutritive value.
Some teens and young adults alike are attracted to energy drinks because of the supposedly improved athletic performance and increased endurance associated with energy drink consumption. College students have been reported to use energy drinks for increased energy, sleep avoidance, studying for long periods of time, driving for long periods and mixing with alcohol at parties.
According to Tandalayo Kidd, assistant professor, human nutrition department at Kansas State University, “Regardless of why a person may consume energy drinks, caution should be taken since caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, and too much can cause an increased in heart rate, elevate blood pressure, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, restlessness and tremors. Although energy drink manufacturers are required to list caffeine as an ingredient on the label, they are not required to list the amount. The amount of caffeine varies between energy drink brands, so one should not assume the amount in one brand is the same as the amount in another. Consumers need to contact the manufacturer if the amount of caffeine is not stated on the label.”
Studies suggest a moderate amount of caffeine (100-200 milligrams) intake a day is safe; however, caffeine affects people differently depending on their gender, size and their sensitivity to caffeine’s effect. Therefore, vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake because of the side effects associated with higher consumption. If one is trying to decrease his or her caffeine intake, it is recommended the caffeine is reduced gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as severe headaches, irritability, muscle aches and temporary depression.
So far the Food and Drug Administration has not put any restrictions on the amount of caffeine that goes into energy drinks. However, scientists from the University of Illinois in a recent Institute of Food Technologists journal article stated, “The potential health risks associated with heavy consumption of these beverages have gone unaddressed, and there ought to be a greater need to establish proper regulations. Public concern has been raised regarding the lack of information that is provided on energy drink labels as well as the high caffeine concentrations that are present in some of the more “extreme” energy drinks.
“To ensure consumer safety, warning labels must be present on energy drinks that contain elevated levels of their active ingredients, especially caffeine. In addition, an acceptable upper limit must be put in place for the allowable amount of caffeine that can be put in energy drinks just like there is for cola beverages. Enhanced regulations may rid the ‘extreme,’ highly caffeinated energy drinks from store shelves and thus protect consumers.”
Here is a list of several drinks and their caffeine, calories and sugar content per serving. Remember, most of these drinks have more than one serving per container.
Name Serving Size Caffeine Calories Sugar
(fl oz) (mg) (g)
Amp: 8, 71, 110, 28
Full Throttle: 8, 72, 111, 29
GURU: 8.3, 97, 100, 22
Hydrive: 15.5, 145, 30, 6
Monster: 8, 80 100, 27
NOS: 8, 130, 110, 26
Red Bull: 8.3, 80, 110, 27
Red Bull Simply Cola: 12, 45, 130, 31
Rockstar: 8, 80, 140, 31
Rockstar Juiced: 8, 80, 100, 22
Sambazon Amazon Energy: 8, 80, 80, 19
SoBe Energy: 8, 32, 110, 27
Venom Energy-Black Mamba: 8, 80, 120, 28
Mountain Dew: 12, 54, 170, 46
Dr. Pepper: 12, 61, 150, 41
Diet Coke: 12, 45, 0, 0
Pepsi Cola: 12, 38, 150, 41
7-Up: 12, 0, 150, 38
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.