Everyone knows how difficult exam days are. Especially in summer. That’s why you often see libraries full of students craving any extra stimulus. In college cafeterias, the promise comes in the form of energy drinks. Available in a variety of sizes and flavors, they promise to keep you awake. Also improve your physical performance when you go to the gym and your nighttime stamina if you mix them with alcohol. And all this for less than two euros.
Boys, girls, teenagers and young adults (as is the case with ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks) are again the most exposed, vulnerable and unprotected groups from these foods. Already in 2013, a study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) warned of this problem: 16% of children (3 to 10 years old) regularly consumed energy drinks. That is, four to five times a week (or more), which is equivalent to two liters per month.
In Spain, according to the ESTUDES survey conducted among the population aged 14 to 18, 45% of adolescents said they had consumed this type of drink in the last month. As in other countries, consumption is more common among boys (51%) than among girls (39%). These differences are related to the promotion, advertising and marketing strategies of the brands. In addition, studies also show a clear social gradient: consumption is higher among those adolescents who live in areas of greater material deprivation.
The most recent ESTUDES data confirms that we have a public health problem. Energy drinks are drinks that are high in caffeine and sugar (its two main ingredients) and other stimulants. They have almost zero nutritional value. The leading brand in the industry has 80 milligrams of caffeine in a 250 ml can. Following the EFSA recommendations for the safe consumption of caffeine, the maximum amount should not exceed 3 milligrams per kilogram of a person’s body weight. That is 150 milligrams for a 50 kg teenager. Each 500 ml can of Monster already contains 160 milligrams or more.
Those who claim to drink these drinks, on average, get worse grades, repeat more courses, and miss more classes.
In terms of the amount of sugar, energy drinks typically contain between 27.5 and 60 grams per 250 milliliters and 500 milliliters, respectively. Or the same: the equivalent of 11-12 teaspoons of sugar, or about 220-240 kilocalories, for every 500 ml jar. In fact, most brands have already introduced options Light, zero or without reduce this amount of sugar and replace it with sweeteners.
Despite the fact that it promises to energize, the rest of its components also do not have any advantages. However, most studies conclude that drinking these drinks (especially in large quantities or mixed with alcohol) has a negative impact on physical and mental health. For example, cardiovascular and neurological risks, psychological problems, or behavioral and sleep disturbances. Returning to the data from Spain, those who report drinking these drinks, on average, get worse grades, repeat more cycles, or skip classes more often compared to those who report not drinking energy drinks.
Finally, we must remember that it is customary to combine the use of these drinks with alcohol. And that by masking the depressing effects of alcohol, such as drowsiness and fatigue, the risk of alcohol poisoning increases.
In Spain, the consumption of these drinks is completely normalized, and there are no specific rules regarding the ingredients they can contain, their maximum concentrations or possible combinations. In turn, it is estimated that 70% of people are not aware of the composition of energy drinks or their possible side effects.
For this reason, more and more nutrition professionals (including public figures such as chef Jamie Oliver) are advocating regulation of these beverages, such as limiting the maximum caffeine content. They also demand greater control over advertising directed at children and adolescents, or a ban on its sale to children under 16 years of age. Interventions are already underway in some countries. Our Ministry of Consumer and Consumer Protection has announced a set of measures for 2021; They eventually evolved into 10 consensus recommendations developed in conjunction with the energy drink industry itself. This decalogue warns of the health risks associated with these beverages, advises teenagers not to consume them, warns athletes that they are not good for rehydration, and reminds manufacturers of the obligation to include a label indicating their high caffeine content and therefore , Not recommended. for children or for pregnant or lactating women.
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