By: Joel Gilleland, Staff Reporter | Photos By: Joel Gilleland, Staff Reporter
Health employees discuss pitfalls of energy drinks
Energy drinks can be damaging to students’ health, said part-time Nutrition instructor and Registered Dietician, Stefanie Tierny M.S.
Some possible complications caused by consuming energy drinks include jitters, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, seizures, high blood pressure and can be especially dangerous for people with heart conditions and those taking stimulant medications for ADHD, she said
“We have the blood services van come and do blood drives here monthly. They have noted that they are turning away more and more students as a result of high blood pressure. I think energy drinks can be very dangerous. Because of the fact that it clearly causes people’s pressures to go up, I think it’s a mistake,” said Director of CNM Student Health Center, Marti Brittenham.
A lot of these drinks contain more B-vitamins than the recommended daily amount, she said. B-vitamins help the body convert food into energy, but if the consumer does not eat something with the drink the B-vitamins are practically useless and the drink will cause a rise in blood pressure, said Brittenham.
“They help you obtain energy from nutrients that actually do provide energy, but B-vitamins don’t provide any energy. You can take as many as you want, but if you don’t eat anything you aren’t going to get any energy because you aren’t consuming any energy,” said Tierny.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate herbal supplements so it is very difficult to know exactly what and how much of something these products contain, said Tierny.
“Because a lot of energy drinks are sold as ‘dietary supplements’ you don’t necessarily know what’s in them. Just because it’s on the label, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what is in it,” Tierny said.
Tierny said many energy drink companies claim that the product has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, which may or may not be true, but fail to mention other stimulants in the product. Other stimulants such as; sugar, guarana, ginseng, taurine and ginkgo can make the drink equivalent to drinking as much as 10 cups of coffee, said Tierny.
Since these products are not regulated, the companies are not required to put the amounts of these stimulants in each drink. There is also no way to determine if the consumer is getting the pure extract or something completely different, said Tierny.
The additives in energy drinks can cause low blood sugar, caffeine withdrawal and the carbohydrates can also cause the body to crash, said Tierny.
“Those drinks are loaded with carbohydrates and users have a kind of ‘carb crash’ at some point. You just have to, it’s the way your metabolism works,” said Patti Hoaland, the registered nurse for the Student Health Center.
Tierny said she suggests that students try to get six to eight hours of sleep a night. She said that no product can make up for loss of sleep. Getting the proper amount will keep people healthy and energized. She also said she recommends that people take short naps or “power naps” when they feel tired and are able to do so. Exercising regularly can also help give the body energy and release endorphins.
She also suggested preparing for the day by packing some healthy snacks that are high in carbohydrates with added protein and fiber. Apples and peanut butter, crackers and cheese or yogurt with some trail mix can help to regulate blood sugar and keep a person feeling good, she said.