Tag Archives: caffeine

Energy Drinks: Drink Fast, Die Young

With over 20 billion dollars in sales last year in the United States sales alone, it is safe to say that energy drink consumption is not slowing down. The “dangerous” and “bad-boy” names, such as Monster, Rockstar, and Cocaine, are clearly meant to target a younger market. In fact, Cocaine energy drink’s packaging even reads: “Warning- this beverage should be consumed by responsible adults. Failure to adhere to this warning may result in excess excitement, stamina, fun and possible feeling of euphoria.

A few of the numerous brands of energy drinks
Image Source: Flickr Commons

 Ignoring the high levels of sugar, the main culprit in energy drinks remains the caffeine content. As they are considered “nutritional supplements”, energy drink companies can ignore the caffeine limits set by the USA Food and Drug Administration. On a cup-to-cup basis, it appears that energy drinks do not contain much more caffeine than coffee, though brands vary.

Caffeine content per cup (8 oz.):                                                          Energy Drinks 40-150 mg                                                                                            Generic Black Coffee 35-100 mg                                                                                      Black Tea 14-61mg                                                                                                                    Coca-Cola 20-23mg

However, energy drinks such as Monster are generally sold in large 16 oz. cans, doubling the caffeine intake to 80-300 mg. For the average healthy adult, whose daily caffeine limit is approximately 400 mg, one or two cups of coffee and an energy drink later in the day may not be an issue. The problem arises, however, with overconsumption in teenagers, who continue to be the main consumers of the product. The daily recommended caffeine limit for teens is much lower, at approximately 100 mg. A single energy drink can exceed this limit and doesn’t account for any other sources of caffeine throughout the day.

Overconsumption of caffeine has been associated with numerous negative health effects from tremors, cardiovascular problems, to mental health issues. A study from the University of Waterloo found a positive relationship between teen energy drink overconsumption, depression, and substance addiction. “The trends we are seeing are more than cause for concern,” said Azagba, the main researcher on the project.

Initial effects of caffeine overdoses
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

            As teen energy drink overdoses continue, there has been a call to limit their availability for those under 18. Attempts to pass this bill in Maryland, USA, are met with controversy. The short clip below, courtesy of WBAL-TV 11 News Baltimore, reports on the situation:

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 Should we actually ban the sale of energy drinks to minors, or fine them for “possession” as the video suggests? Probably not. Restricting materials to minors, such as alcohol, is often fraught with complications. Additionally, many other energizing caffeine products would still be widely available. Ultimately, public education on the subject is key. Individuals have to be aware of their own limitations when it comes to consuming products; everything is harmful at a certain dose.  Know your limit and stay within it.

-Richelle Eger


 “Dieticians of Canada.” Food Sources of Caffeine. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2014. <http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Caffeine/Food-Sources-of-Caffeine.aspx>.

 “Energy Drinks Linked to Teen Health Risks.” ScienceDaily. N.p., 06 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2014 <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306- 095358.htm>.

The Memory Game: Does Caffeine Help?

It is the night before that dreaded exam; the question surely revolving within your head is whether or not to chug down a cup of coffee.  If the goal is not to merely stay awake and finish reading those last few chapters but to keep your optimal level of memory up, then the following information is your key to success.

A variety of beverages contain caffeine, such as energy drinks.
Source: Daniel Jurena, Flickr

The Bad:

Caffeine has a half-life of approximately 6 hours which implies after a full 12 hour day, 25% of the original caffeine dose will still be present in your bloodstream.  Depending on dose, varying levels of sleep disruption or insomnia may follow.  In addition to not being able to sleep (which certainly will not aid your memory), the side of the coin people often overlook about caffeine is after its intake, as research has shown, the REM (Rapid Eye-Movement) phase and slow-wave deep sleep are affected.  REM sleep is believed to be the stage of the regular sleep cycle when memory is consolidated, thus it is critical that it remains undisturbed.

The Good:

Fortunately for coffee drinkers, there is new light shed on the beneficial effects of caffeine. Recently, a study conducted by undergraduate student Daniel Borota and a research team at John Hopkins University marked the first time direct results of caffeine stimulating the improvement of memory were recorded.  In the study, participants observed a series of simple everyday images including an office chair, a duck, and a saxophone.  To control for variances of individuals’ conditions, all participants viewed the images first, before half of the group was given a 200mg dose of caffeine while the other half was subject to a placebo.  The next day, the participants viewed another series of similar images and the group with caffeine intake the previous day was found to identify slight image differences with greater accuracy than the placebo group.  This differentiation is called pattern separation in neuroscience and leads to the conclusion that caffeine does indeed enhance memory consolidation in humans.

Dr. Michael Yassa from John Hopkins University further explains the study:

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There is a fine line between over-caffeinating yourself to cram for exams and taking a healthy dose of it to help with alertness.  This new research shows that perhaps, the recommended amount of caffeine to optimize memory may be 200mg- just about one strong cup of coffee.

Blog post by Madeleine Tsoi