Are Energy Drinks like Red Bull good for you?

Informative article today in NY Times today on energy drinks.

One of the operative quotes:

“…one thing is clear, interviews with researchers and a review of scientific studies show: the energy drink industry is based on a brew of ingredients that, apart from caffeine, have little, if any benefit for consumers….”

So the question is, why not just have an espresso? Is it something about the can, the macho power workout imagery suggested by names like Red Bull or Monster? Or is it the blatant fake advertising and, according to the experts in the article, undocumented pseudo-scientific claims about taurine?

“…Caffeine is called the world’s most widely used drug. A stimulant, it increases alertness, awareness and, if taken at the right time, improves athletic performance, studies show. Energy drink users feel its kick faster because the beverages are typically swallowed quickly or are sold as concentrates.

Iced coffee, anyone?

‘These are caffeine delivery systems,” said Dr. Roland Griffiths, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University who has studied energy drinks. “They don’t want to say this is equivalent to a NoDoz because that is not a very sexy sales message.’ “

The grandaddy of all energy drinks Lipovitan-D, from Japan, from the company that began the claims about taurine, has this history–

“The roots of the energy drink phenomenon … can be traced to Japan. Those origins appear tied to the emergence of supposed cure-alls after World War II a time when drugs there were in short supply.”

In fact early marketing for the Japanese beverage claims taurine’s effectiveness in treating illnesses as diverse as neuralgia, fevers, fatigue, and whooping cough. Whooping cough?!?

The problem with getting your pre-workout caffeine fix from these dubious products are multifold.

  • First, there is the fact that almost all cans are lined with a highly toxic material called Bisphenol-A (BPA). http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=178..
  • Then there is the amount of sugar in these drinks. Do I really need to address that? One Red Bull contains nearly 2 tbsp of sugar. Try putting that much sugar in a double espresso and see what it tastes like.
  • Then there is the issue of getting caffeine from a highly processed source. At least when you get caffeine from tea or coffee there are all kinds of anti-oxidants present that are actually good for you.
  • Of course you could get sugar-free, which means imbibing large amounts of highly toxic artificial sweetners that are probably far worse for you than sugar.
  • Finally, there is cost. Coffee and tea, a 12oz Starbucks at 1.85 has the same caffeine, the essential ingredient that makes you feel energy, as a 16 oz. “energy” drink that sells for 2.99.

The guys that make and sell these products are gazillionaires. The Thai part-owner of Red Bull is the 250th richest man in the world. Wanna make him richer? If you need your caffeine cold, why not have a strong ice tea? You can get all kinds of cold iced teas, too, if you want to spend money on a can, as opposed to bringing from home.

This seems like a no-brainer. P.T. Barnum said a sucker is born every minute. Wanna be one of them? Spend your hard earned dough on hi-sugar energy drinks.


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