01 July 2010
By Jayashree Nandi
Energy drinks of various brands that have flooded the market and are available over the counter – in cigarette shops, pubs and even departmental stores – are the new manna for the youth.
Precisely why the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has now proposed a regulation for the drinks and has invited public opinion on the draft regulation. The draft advises restricting the use but does not say what is the desired level of consumption.
What has prompted the FSSAI to regulate the drinks is a scientific review of energy drinks that has thrown up a series of health concerns due to the high levels of caffeine and when used in conjunction with alcoholic or other substances of dependence could be detrimental to health.
Energy drinks are non–alcoholic beverages containing caffeine, guarana, glucuronolactone, taurine, ginseng, inositol, carnitine, B–vitamins, etc as main ingredients that act as stimulants.
These drinks contain high levels of caffeine, which stimulates the nervous system.
According to the regulation proposal document of FSSAI, available with TOI, the document cites a study conducted by the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia in August 2008 which found that energy drinks could increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
According to the research, even consuming one can of a popular brand of energy drink could cause the blood to become sticky, increasing the risk of clotting. A group of 100 scientists and physicians, led by a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has sent a petition to FDA (Food and Drug Administration) urging the agency to increase energy drink regulations as the high caffeine drinks could increase the risk of caffeine intoxication and alcohol–related injuries.
Caffeine as stimulant in sports under lens
Bangalore: Excessive use of energy drinks may pose health hazards if the caffeine content is high, warn experts.
"Players, specially in tennis and sports involving physical activity for more than one hour, used stimulants like caffeine and were caught after they were tested positive. Currently caffeine as a stimulant in sports is under observation. It used to be banned earlier. Any player with more than 15 mg of caffeine in one ML of urine was tested positive. It would be better to have standards for such drinks,’’ said former sports scientist with Sports Authority of India, Dr C S Jayaprakash.
"Ingredients like carnitine and ginseng have not been scientifically documented and it is difficult to say what their impact could be. However, huge quantities of caffeine increases heart rate and is known for causing irregular heartbeat. It could also cause hyperthermia (increase in body temperature) and in rare cases could lead to cardiac arrest."
Athletes Avoid It
"Generally, we athletes do not use energy drinks because it has very high caffeine content. If we are dehydrated, we drink electrolyte sports drinks that are widely available in the market. It gives you that extra sugar required and is very safe.
I have tried energy drinks once or twice but it gives you too much of a kick. When we are swimming, it will last for the first 50 metres but the energy has disappeared in the next 50 metres. I am a little weary of children or even adults drinking energy drinks," explains ace swimmer and Olympian Nisha Millet.
Thirty–year–old Sanjay Gupta takes energy drinks regularly in the afternoon or evenings. He used to drink it every day earlier but when he started putting on weight and realized that he couldn’t do without drinking it atleast once a day, he tried to regulate. "It gives you a kick immediately that lasts for around two to three hours. I used to take it while watching TV or after work when I was tired. But I realized that it could have side effects like putting on weight and withdrawal symptoms like sleeplessness," he said.
According to Dr Suresh Kodapla, consultant neurosurgeon, Fortis Hospitals, these drinks are very rich in calories and youngsters get easily hooked on to them because of their addictive quality. "I have noticed people taking it daily because the taste is addictive but it’s best to avoid them or drink very occasionally," he said.