Energy drinks: Risks, rewards, and moving beyond caffeine?
Next we move to energy drinks, which were the subject of a lively presentation on Sunday from Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University, and Mark Davies, PhD, professor in the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina.
- We don’t have up-to-date data on caffeine consumption. Recent studies - which suggest intakes are around 300mg/day for adults and 100mg/day for teens/young adults - use data from 2003-8, before the proliferation of energy drinks/shots/snacks with caffeine.
- The market is becoming highly segmented. Not all products are aimed at extreme sports enthusiasts. Target groups are middle-aged office workers, women, students, gamers and sports enthusiasts.
- Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and blocks adenosine receptors.
- Some of the other ingredients used in energy drinks aside from caffeine have been shown in some studies to have cognitive effects, but not in the quantities that are typically included in energy drinks: “They are just in there to look good” and “provide at best trivial benefits”.
- Individual tolerance to caffeine varies considerably, but in low to moderate doses it is for the most part safe and effective. However, higher doses can cause symptoms from tremors and anxiety to death.
- Quercetin - a compound found in small quantities in onions, apples and other foods - may be an effective alternative to caffeine. It has FDA-notified GRAS status and has been shown in some studies to increase endurance. Functional MRI pictures also show that it activates some of the same parts of the brain as caffeine.