Re-energize with Energy Drinks in Singapore: The Pros and Cons of Consumption

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The energy drink market is a fast growing category worldwide. Energy drinks are a category of non-alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, taurine, ginseng, guarana, and others. They were initially made for athletes or people who suffer from sleep deprivation. For an athlete, it helps to improve his or her performance which builds up the momentum. The medical associations and energy drink manufacturers usually describe these drinks as products that boost mental and physical well-being. However, there are many concerns about potential adverse health effect of energy drinks, particularly on mental health. Studies have shown that many people who drink energy drinks self-report levels of stress, anxiety, and depression that are much higher than people who do not consume these popular beverages. Furthermore, the impact on children and young people is of particular worry to the experts. In the article, I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of consuming energy drinks in a multicultural and diverse city like Singapore. Through this analysis, this article will try to determine whether energy drinks pose potential health risk and whether there is a need to regulate its sales and the level of caffeine present in the drinks. The purpose of this article is to give an insight to individuals, parents and policy makers about some of the advantages and disadvantages of consuming energy drinks. Last but not least, this article will also highlight some of the potential health risk of energy drink based on scientific findings and studies. I believe educating people about the harmful effect of energy drinks will help to reduce the number of people suffer from their negative impact. Thank you for reading this article and hopefully you will find it interesting and beneficial.

Definition of Energy Drinks

In this article, the term “energy drinks” refers to beverages that contain caffeine in combination with large amounts of sugar, herbal supplements, and amino acids. Caffeine is the primary active ingredient in energy drinks. It is a central nervous system stimulant and is known to increase wakefulness, alleviate fatigue, and improve concentration and focus. Caffeine consumption by the global population has been increasing. In Singapore, 99% of children aged 12-14 years old have heard of energy drinks and 71% consume them. Adults in Singapore are also at risk of energy drink consumption. A recent study published in the “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition” showed that over a quarter (28.8%) of the 137 Singapore recruits for the study had consumed energy drinks before. The study also shows that males are more likely to consume energy drinks. Energy drinks have been found to have up to about 160 mg of caffeine per 16 ounces. This is about twice the caffeine in a typical caffeinated soft drink and approximately equivalent to a cup of brewed coffee. It is therefore important, especially for parents of adolescents, to consider the potential risks and negative health impact associated with energy drink consumption. Such risks include obesity due to high sugar content in the drinks, late effects on neurocognitive performance, and potential health risks associated with energy drink beverages. High caffeine content is one of the most common concerns as caffeine is known to increase blood pressure, heart rate, cause dehydration, and have diuretic effects. Adolescents often self-administer caffeine in large doses that may significantly impact on their sleep patterns and have adverse effects on neurocognitive performance. High and frequent consumption of caffeine during early adolescence might alter the adult responses to some drugs or increase vulnerability to drug dependence and addiction. Caffeine is already known as the most widely used mood-altering drug in the world and its availability has increased alongside the growth of industrial and technological society. The risk of dependency and addiction on caffeine will become an ever-increasing problem. High caffeine intake may also increase the risk of developing ischaemic heart disease and certain cerebrovascular accidents. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States regulates caffeine in consumable products, it is often categorized as “GRAS” or generally recognized as safe. Nevertheless, the potential health risks of energy drinks are often overlooked by the consumers. In most developing children and adolescents, the commonly cited benefit of increased energy, improved physical performance, and enhanced cognitive function can lead to the overuse of high-caffeine drinks and the underestimation of the potential health hazards. Younger generations in the developed world appear to be increasingly making use of caffeine-containing substances. Modern advertising and novel lifestyle have changed the stereotypical consumer of caffeine from adult workers to teenagers looking for a ‘high’ and increased energy during leisure time. The increasing trend of energy drink consumption by younger populations presents a major public health concern. Adolescents are now faced with a variety of caffeine containing products, such as soft drinks, confectionery, and energy drinks. The knowledge of the potential health risks that may stem from such a consumption pattern especially in children and adolescents should raise much awareness among parents and policymakers. This study further found that of those who had consumed energy drinks, over 70% of them had consumed in combination with alcohol. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and interacts with caffeine, a stimulant.

Purpose of the Article

The purpose of this article is to provide advice to the general public about energy drink consumption in Singapore. As there are a lot of mixed opinions about energy drinks and people have very limited information, I decided to write an article with the intention to provide a fair opinion to the public about them. Therefore, I started off with a scientific explanation about what energy drinks really are, and then I looked into the benefits that energy drinks claim to offer. I also discussed the main ingredients of a typical energy drink and talked about the individual effects of these ingredients. Moving on from there, I wrote about both short-term and long-term effects of consuming energy drinks and I also put in statistics to back up my writing. After emphasizing the negative impacts of energy drinks, I spent a huge section of my article exploring the dangers of energy drinks. I focused on several aspects of danger such as high caffeine content, damage to health, negative effect on sleep patterns, and the possibility to develop drug abuse tendency. Hopefully, with this article, those who are currently consuming energy drinks excessively would try to quit the consumption after at least one or two days of reading and understanding my article. I also hope the potential consumers who read my article would not have the intention to get themselves into bad consumption behaviors. Furthermore, I would like to deliver a message to the relevant authorities that more actions should be taken to control the energy drink market. Essentially, after reading and analyzing both text M and text N, I can fairly conclude that both authors have given their view on addiction and risk of energy drinks. However, as the question about “engaging and thought-provoking” is looking for a stronger argument, I believe that text M has achieved it more effectively. This is not just because Patricia Hampl writes more fluently than Jeffrey Schrank, but also she has managed to express and exemplify her idea about addiction and risk of energy drinks more clearly. On the other hand, Jeffrey Schrank tends to focus too much on the linguistics aspect of the passage but he did not give a concrete example to demonstrate his idea. Also, a short phrase in the passage of Jeffrey Schrank “when the dose is much bigger than any of those” has shown that he is more concerned about the language use of energy drinks but not the danger or the impacts that might cause by them. Owing to the fact that text M is more successful in expressing the ideas, I will suppose that text M is better at engaging and provoking thoughts.

Pros of Energy Drink Consumption

Furthermore, energy drinks could also positively affect an individual’s physical performance. When people consume energy drinks which contain a reasonable amount of caffeine and other nutrients such as carbohydrates and taurine, the physical performance of these individuals increased. This is suggested in a study in which results have shown that energy drinks, especially those containing caffeine and carbohydrates, as opposed to typical soft drinks and a placebo, could significantly enhance endurance performance, maximal strength, and peak power. In fact, some athletes, especially those in the world of sports such as basketball and football in which energy is required in addition to a performance such as a power shot, have turned to energy drink for that temporal boost of energy. The taurine in energy drinks can lower oxidative stress and may aid muscle recovery processes, thereby enhancing muscle performance and performance recovery according to recommendations by the International Society of Sports Nutrition. As such, the pros of energy drink consumption do seem to suggest that it may provide a positive help on physical performance which normal drinks cannot offer. On the other hand, it has to be noted that excessive energy drink consumption could also have negative effects as well; the pros of energy drink consumption are that they provide the help that people need whenever consumed at a moderate level.

Increased Energy and Alertness

A number of the ingredients in energy drinks, most importantly caffeine, sugar, and herbals like guarana, ginseng, and taurine, are stimulants which might briefly increase alertness and energy. Caffeine is the hottest stimulant inside the central nervous system and it’s used to treat drowsiness, tiredness, and chronic pain. The caffeine amount in energy drinks can range from 80mg to over 500mg in keeping with 100ml. Energy drinks are marketed to be used as a popular beverage and should provide energy, increased stamina, and improved endurance. They contain various functional food ingredients and nutritional compounds. Nutritional compounds, like carbohydrates (sugars), amino acids, and vitamin B, and functional ingredients like caffeine, guarana, ginseng, and taurine are common in energy drinks. Energy drinks and food labeling: Regulatory situation. Energy drinks belong to the class of dietary supplements in Europe and the European Commission Directive 2002/67/EC defines dietary supplements as foodstuffs that supplement a normal diet and are concentrated sources of nutrients or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect. However, the main purpose of energy drinks is to offer consumers an energy boost and enhanced physical and mental performance. This result is found that popular energy drinks significantly increase the frequency of the heart rate and the systolic blood pressure is raised by an average maximum of 6.6%, diastolic blood pressure by 6%, and blood pressure by 4.8%. After the study, it showed that there is a major increase in participants’ blood pressure levels from the lowest level (54.4mmHg) to the highest level (59.7mmHg), which increases by approximately 10% and it’s sustained over a 30-minute period. On the other hand, critical flicker fusion frequency or visual reaction time is employed as a marker of the central nervous system and it can measure the alertness, the power of the visual system to discover small changes in light intensity.

Improved Physical Performance

It is believed that energy drinks can improve physical performance, endurance, and power during high-intensity physical activities and sports that require strength and stamina. This is because energy drinks contain different substances that may work together to improve several aspects of physical performance, including caffeine, taurine, and sugar. Caffeine has been shown to increase physical performance and improve the speed, power, strength, and endurance. This is because caffeine affects the central nervous system. It also acts as a stimulant to increase the release of certain hormones which can improve various aspects of exercise from increasing the amount of work done to increasing endurance levels. On the other hand, taurine is an amino sulfonic acid that is often found in the heart, muscles, and brain; however, its main use in the body is during physical activities to help move important nutrients such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium to where they are needed for good energy and muscle power. A study conducted in Germany by researchers reported that taurine and caffeine appeared to have a positive impact on the overall physical and mental performances. Finally, the sugar contained in the energy drink will be absorbed into the bloodstream, providing instant energy which will improve the physical performance quickly. Last but not least, it is worth noting that sugar-free energy drinks, while containing no sugar, still contain the caffeine from the other ingredients. This may satisfy those who are put off by energy drinks that contain sugar and also for those who do not want the side effects of caffeine. Some of the studies have shown that those who drank sugar-free energy drinks improved the physical performance better than those who drank regular energy drinks.

Enhanced Cognitive Function

The pros of energy drink consumption include increased energy and alertness, improved physical performance, and enhanced cognitive function. Work has demonstrated that the fixings in energy drinks not just can have any kind of effect in your capacity to remain alert, yet additionally that they can help support your psychological capacities. For instance, one of the key fixings in numerous energy drinks – caffeine – has appeared in an enormous assortment of studies to improve psychological capacity, for example, memory, state of mind, response times and mental capacity. Caffeine hinders synthetic concoctions in the cerebrum that cause sleepiness. At the point when these synthetic compounds are smothered, the cerebrum’s energizers increment, and the impact is a more ready and centered mind. Furthermore, a few examinations have demonstrated that the amino corrosive taurine, another regular fixing in energy drinks, has been appeared to have a quieting impact on mind work. One examination found that individuals who expended caffeine alone had improved pulse and intellectual capacities, however the individuals who took taurine alone didn’t have a similar improvement. Nonetheless, the individuals who took an amalgam of taurine and caffeine encountered the most extensive scope of mental advantages, featuring the possibility that there is a synergistic impact between caffeine and taurine that can help improve mental execution. This could be uplifting news when time is tight and a person’s psychological limit is being put under a magnifying glass, for example, during the night move at work or while changing in accordance with another rest design.

Cons of Energy Drink Consumption

Even though energy drinks might provide some benefit due to the ingredient of caffeine, one of the most unwanted side effects of too much caffeine is heart palpitations, where your heart feels like it’s pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly. There isn’t any need for caffeine for our body, where our body benefits from a healthy diet and regular physical activity. This is differing from adults, too much caffeine could induce a state of attention deficit in children. Next, over-consumption can lead to obesity. At the surface, that might sound contradictory. However, one study found that participants who had greater than 31 grams of added sugars (the amount found in a 12-ounce can of cola) had more body fat, as well as greater insulin resistance. Moreover, another side effect of over-consumption of energy drinks is the “crash”. The “sugar crash” refers to the letdown felt after consuming a large amount of carbohydrate. After drinking large amount of sugar and caffeine, blood sugar levels may rise, then fall rapidly. This leaves a person feeling tired, irritable and slow to concentrate. Other than the side effects mentioned above, certain groups of people should avoid energy drinks, especially pregnant, breastfeeding women and also children and teenagers. Caffeine and other ingredients in energy drinks act as stimulants, where it affects everyone differently, causing some to become energized and active while others may be irritable and jittery. Nonetheless, the most harmful risk comes from the cocktails of ingredients found in the energy drinks, which include taurine and ginseng. Engaging in an energy drink binge, mixing with drugs or alcohol, mixing them with certain medications and even taking them on an empty stomach increase the risks of complications. Although energy drinks are marketed as beverages, the high caffeine levels and other ingredients could classify them as “dietary supplements”, where it should not be a replacement for a well-balanced diet. Therefore, people should be aware of the potential risks that can result from using the drinks.

High Caffeine Content

The high caffeine content in energy drinks is one of the main attributes that differentiates them from other types of soft drinks. In general, energy drinks contain between 70 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per 16 ounces. In comparison, a regular 12-ounce cola drink usually contains only about 36 to 38 milligrams of caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant consumed throughout the world. It is commonly found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, but it is also commonly added to a variety of sodas and other beverages. In general, it is known that caffeine can result in a wide range of effects on the human body, such as central nervous system stimulation, making you feel more awake and energetic. However, when taken in excess amount, it can lead to symptoms such as heart palpitations, insomnia, feeling jumpy and nervous, and even muscle tremors. Some more serious health risks associated with excessive caffeine intake include increased heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, and high blood pressure. Also, in some cases, the high caffeine content in energy drinks may lead to caffeine poisoning – a “caffeine overdose”. It is a serious health condition that if untreated immediately, it can even lead to death. Symptoms of caffeine poisoning include restlessness, rapid breathing and heart rate, muscle tremors, and in very serious cases, seizures. Actually, consuming caffeine together with alcohol in energy drinks is an emerging public health problem. Studies have shown that people who consume energy drinks with alcohol were three times more likely to binge drink compared to their peers who do not consume energy drinks. Also, drinkers of alcohol mixed with energy drinks are likely to experience all of the harms such as violence and injury and more of the alcohol-specific harms such as motor-vehicle accidents compared to alcohol alone. It is believed that the caffeine in such mixers can block the depressant effects of alcohol, thereby increasing the risk and the rate of alcohol-related harms. From the above, the effects of caffeine and the potential health risks of high caffeine content in energy drinks, it is important for us to be mindful of the dosage and pay attention to our personal tolerance levels to caffeine. As for now, the recommended maximum caffeine dosage by health authorities is 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for normal healthy adults. Given that the average adult drinks one energy drink, which usually contains between 70 to 200 milligrams of caffeine, it is possible for one to reach or exceed the 400 milligrams of caffeine dosage, let alone taking other caffeinated food or drinks, within a day. Some groups of individuals should avoid or limit caffeine consumption, particularly young children, pregnant women, mothers who are breastfeeding, and persons with a known history of caffeine sensitivity. It is critical for us to make conscious choices towards promoting and maintaining our health and well-being.

Potential Health Risks

Energy drinks, like many other caffeinated beverages, have been linked to a number of potential health risks. The high caffeine content in most energy drinks can result in caffeine toxicity, a condition whose symptoms include palpitations, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and, in some more extreme cases, seizures. The condition is particularly prevalent as a result of the mix of caffeine and alcohol that is often found in energy drinks. Dr. Brad Uren, an emergency room physician and medical director at the Colorado Poison Control Center in the US, said that ingredients such as taurine, an amino acid common in the body but often an additive in energy drinks, may also be playing a role. Uren added that because the substance is understudied, its effects on the body are still unknown. Caffeine can also have an adverse effect on the heart. The Mayo Clinic, a non-profit American academic medical center, reports that caffeine can cause a short, temporary increase in blood pressure. However, several studies have suggested that this could be more long-term; a Rotterdam, Netherlands based study found that long-term caffeine intake could result in increased arterial stiffness, which can herald the development of heart disease. Finally, energy drinks can also lead to sleep problems, with those who consume them, especially adolescents, often experiencing a poor quality of sleep or a lack of sleep overall. Marina Harris, manager of the Pharmacy Sleep Service for Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, told Australian news agency ABC that the issue is typically related to the large concentration of caffeine. “When you’re looking at 160mg of caffeine per 500ml [the widely recognised upper limit of caffeine for a healthy adult] that can have a powerful effect, and if you have it late enough in the day, it can really interfere with your sleep,” she said. The effects of regular sleep disturbance can be wide-ranging, from a more negative outlook on life and a feeling of disconnection to an increased chance of having an accident at work or on the motorway.

Negative Effects on Sleep Patterns

Most energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and taurine, as well as other stimulants and vitamins. Caffeine is a well-known psychoactive stimulant that can prevent the onset of sleep and reduce total sleeping time. Although the exact details for how caffeine works on a neurobiological level are currently unclear, it is considered to be a non-selective antagonist for adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a neurochemical that promotes sleep and the build-up of this substance in the brain is associated with a pressure to sleep. When caffeine molecules are blocking adenosine receptors, this inhibits the sleepiness that would usually be induced as the day progresses. However, it is also suggested that long-term caffeine consumption has the opposite effect and may actually lead to an increase in levels of adenosine in the brain. This is thought to be because the neurochemistry of the body undergoes a process known as neuroadaptation, in which it becomes tolerant to the effects of caffeine. As a result, the up-regulation of adenosine receptors and production of adenosine follows, making the caffeine less effective in blocking the sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. As an extension to the negative effect of lost sleep on physical and cognitive performance, fatigue due to insufficient sleep has a significant detrimental effect on a person’s everyday life. Concentration and attention levels, such as those required to perform well at work or when driving, are impaired, complicating decision-making and increasing the likelihood of accidents and mistakes. Additionally, the coordination of gross and fine motor functions are also compromised by sleep loss, impacting on functions such as walking and the ability to carry out manual tasks well. From a psychological standpoint, the reduced energy and lower mood often associated with sleep deprivation can decrease quality of life and increase stress or anxiety levels. Altered sleep patterns cause changes to a person’s circadian rhythm, which regulates many different metabolic and physiological processes throughout the day. As a result, the body’s regular 24-hour cycle of sleep and wake is disrupted and this can lead to long-term health problems such as cardiovascular risks and obesity.

Dependency and Addiction

It has been suggested that there are two main reasons why an individual could become dependent on energy drinks. Firstly, if someone consumes these drinks on a regular basis (for example, because they work long hours or have a heavy study schedule), they could soon start to experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms if they stop. Regular consumption of caffeine changes the chemical balance of the brain and decreasing or ceasing consumption of it will re-establish the balance and a person could start to feel groggy, tired and have a headache. These feelings can be stopped by taking more caffeine and so a dependency on it develops. Secondly, as with drugs such as nicotine and heroin, if a person experiences the perceived benefits of the caffeine (in this case, increased alertness and energy), then a dependency on it can develop. Caffeine promotes the release of the hormone dopamine, which is a ‘pleasure’ hormone. The rapid release of this hormone when we consume caffeine is believed to produce the ‘lift’ that some individuals may feel. Over time, the body and brain can start to rely on and need more of this stimulation, resulting in a dependency. I suppose the question is, are energy drinks so different from tea and coffee? After all, caffeine is found in all three. The main differences lie in the quantity of caffeine, the time it takes for the caffeine to have an effect, and the amount of sugar. It has been shown that a typical serving of an energy drink contains at least 3 times the quantity of caffeine found in a regular serving of a cola drink and around the same quantity found in an equivalent volume of mainstream coffee. Given that a cup of coffee will start to have an effect about 30 minutes after consumption and the caffeine within a person’s bloodstream will peak after about 30 minutes, drinking a can of energy drink has the same effect within only a few minutes. Due to the large amount of caffeine in energy drinks, there are many strong warnings relating to the risk of consuming too much in a day. However, there are no specific laws that would restrict the sale of energy drinks to children or young people. Many campaigns, both from health experts and from the public themselves, have called for tighter control on the sale of these drinks; in particular, who they are allowed to be sold to. Some campaigners want to see a complete ban on the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16. However, you could argue that such a decision is still a long way off as it has taken 6 years for the government to fully apply a ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18. Ergo, it seems that certain interest groups have a way to go yet to get their voices heard in the higher echelons of government when it comes to regulating the sale of energy drinks.