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Behind the Jolt

An argument with my friend over what’s worse — soft drinks or energy drinks — got me wondering. How many of us really know what goes into a sports beverage?

We’ve been reading about the ill effects of carbonated drinks for as long as we can remember, so much so that we could list its ingredients in our sleep. Although the awareness campaigns have helped many steer clear of soda, a vast population still continues to rely on energy drinks.

Let’s face it. In a world where there’s hardly any time to breathe, we could all use a pick-me-up, an extra buzz and a lot of energy to spare. So how does one get alert and energised after a sip of these beverages?
Here’s the deal. These fizzy, sweet drinks are made of caffeine (much more than the amount in a cup of coffee), taurine, vitamins, herbal supplements, sugar and sweeteners. Whether it really does ‘give you wings’, or improve your stamina, concentration and weight loss plan might be debatable. Nevertheless, it remains one of the fastest growing beverages on the market.

The downside
The real question is if you can get your caffeine fix from an all-natural bean roast, why bother with unnaturally coloured fizzies? The answer is simple – the hype created by brilliant marketing tactics.

Do you know that most of these drinks are virtually unregulated by authorities? While colas are controlled by FDA limits, energy drinks pass through the system unnoticed as they do not fall under the ‘food’ category. They are listed under ‘dietary supplements’!

Most ingredients that go into these sports beverages have not been studied for long-term effects. The fact that they are easily available in your local store makes it harder to control kids from drinking them. In fact, the society is essentially encouraging children to take performance-enhancing drugs.

It turns out that while caffeine in your regular coffee is ingested slowly, energy drinks offer a ‘shot’ of it all at once. Despite these apparent pitfalls, the companies face no charges or losses. Instead, they come up with better marketing strategies like infusing health claims. The introduction of B-vitamins might look to the innocent eye as a health additive. Little do we know that these vitamins do not provide energy jolts; they’re unnecessary extras that just get flushed out.

Matters of health
The number of people receiving emergency treatment because they consumed energy drinks has spiked over the past few years. Excessive consumption can have some severe medical and behavioural consequences. It’s proving to become a serious public health concern, causing health complications such as insomnia, migraine, seizures and heart problems. Yet, like walking into a trap, we continue to gulp them down.

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