Teachers call for banning energy drinks
Teachers are concerned that our children are consuming too many energy drinks and this is leading to poor behavior and possibly poor health. Tony Spitz has the details.
A young man was recently brought to the ER by friends who were concerned by his sudden behavior changes, restlessness and unusual sweating. He was complaining of chest pain. On a cardiac monitor, his heart rate had accelerated and his blood pressure was rising.
I usually consider a broad differential diagnosis for an ER patient that includes infection, heart attack, drug overdose, or environmental exposure. His friends denied that he had a medical problem or was taking prescription medicine. And he denied drug abuse.
Ruling out an infectious cause, I was able to lower his heart rate and blood pressure with some intravenous anxiety medication and fluid hydration. When he was more alert, he could tell us that he had consumed two energy drinks one after the other before working out.
As I discussed in a previous column about apple cider vinegar and vitamins, the supplement industry in the US, which includes energy drinks, is completely regulated. The lack of quality research limits our critical evaluation of which supplements are effective. We’re flying as blind when it comes to knowing which supplements are potentially harmful.
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Consumers are under the dangerous misconception that if you can buy an over-the-counter supplement without a prescription, it must be safe. But since the FDA doesn’t evaluate all supplements for safety, consumers can’t be sure that all ingredients — or combinations — in supplements are safe.
The most common supplement culprits that can bring you to the ER are weight loss pills and energy drinks.
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weight loss supplements
A landmark 2015 study showed that dietary supplements such as weight loss pills send an average of 23,000 people to the ER annually. That’s largely among the 150 million Americans who spend more than $2 billion a year on weight loss pills.
Companies usually promise that their products will help you lose weight through one of these mechanisms:
- speed up metabolism
- slowing down fat production or absorption
- appetite suppressant
“Fat burners” are the most well-known weight loss supplements and typically include high doses of caffeine, green tea extract, carnitine, yohimbe, soluble fiber and many other herbs. According to the limited research we have, the amount of weight loss from these ingredients is minimal. The strongest evidence for burning calories is caffeine.
Patients quickly run into trouble when they take potent prescription weight-loss drugs outside a doctor’s supervision, adding many weight loss supplements — especially stimulants aimed at speeding up the metabolism — include methamphetamine or cocaine. Like with illegal stimulants. They present to the ER with an accelerated heart rate and high blood pressure, altered or agitated mental status, possible damage to the liver or kidneys, and diarrhea or bleeding from the rectum.
Energy drink use was associated with 20,000 ER visits in the US in 2011. Toxicity occurs in one or both of the following ways: either through extremely high doses of caffeine or from the mixed effects of caffeine with other ingredients.
The safe limit for caffeine for adults 18 years of age and older is up to 400mg per day. For those 12 to 18, the limit is 100mg. Energy drinks contain 70mg to 240mg of caffeine per serving. For example, Java Monster contains 100mg and 5-Hour Energy contains 200mg. For comparison, a cup of coffee contains about 100mg. Energy drinks also contain added sugar that makes them easier to gulp down, and can lead to caffeine toxicity if consumed quickly, compared to a slow sip of coffee.
By themselves, most of the ingredients in energy drinks are typically found in our diet or occur naturally in our bodies and are not inherently dangerous:
- Taurine: A common amino acid found in meat and fish
- L-carnitine: a chemical compound involved in our metabolism
- B Vitamin Complex
However, the amounts of the above ingredients packaged in energy drinks are often much higher than those found in foods and plants. Combined with high levels of caffeine, and you have a perfect storm of cardiac toxicity.
As with weight loss supplements, a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that rapid or excessive consumption of energy drinks can alter the electrical activity of the heart and lead to an elevated or irregular heartbeat (known as arrhythmia). is) and can increase blood pressure, both of which put pressure on the heart. It may be increased in people with underlying heart conditions. In some extreme cases, these ingredients have been known to thicken the blood in the coronary arteries and have resulted in cardiac arrest.
What you need to know
In the ER, our treatment options are limited to poisoning from weight loss pills or energy drink supplements. Common treatments include medications to reduce stress on the heart and intravenous fluids for hydration.
Bottom Line: Thoroughly review the full list of ingredients for any supplement you are considering. Pay close attention to the amount of caffeine and make sure not to drink more than the recommended amount per day. If your goal is to burn calories, a safer option is a pre-workout cup of coffee that is sipped slowly. Also, remember that there is no magic bullet for weight loss. Healthy eating choices in any weight loss program should be combined with cardio or strength training, both of which are effective at burning fat, according to new research. If your program includes a weight loss pill, please take it only under the direct supervision of a physician and be careful not to mix it with other supplements.
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