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Canned Energy… NOT! When I have a morning lecture, I sometimes walk in with a cup of coffee. And so did a lot of my students.

But over the years, the beverage of choice has evolved from coffee to soft drinks and now to energy drinks.

I've noticed that. They're popular with young people because these drinks claim to give you extra pep.

They contain ingredients such as tuarine, guarana (gwa-ra-NAH), ginseng, B–vitamins and most of all, lots of caffeine.

If people down energy drinks to improve their mental and physical performance, there's little evidence they work. Nearly all the ingredients are stimulants.

Guarana seeds have up to three times as much caffeine as coffee. Ginseng, which claims to boost the immune system, is based on paltry scientific evidence.

There's also sugar and of course, caffeine.

Some brands contain up to 300 milligrams of caffeine in an 8 ounce serving. But some people drink more than one can at a time. If you're a healthy adult, research shows that's generally fine.

But women of reproductive age are advised to limit caffeine to no more than 300 milligrams a day. And adolescents shouldn't have more than 100 milligrams a day.

Yet, young people like energy drinks, which can cause children to be hyperactive, fidgety or even enraged.

Caffeine blocks a brain chemical called adenosine, which is involved in sleep. With excessive caffeine, neurons start firing, putting the body in emergency mode. Then the pituitary gland releases adrenaline, which raises the heartbeat and dilates the eyes.

These physical responses make you feel as though you have more energy when you don't. So, you won't run any faster or get more right answers on a test.

In general, energy drinks are safe for adults – in moderation. Remember, caffeine is addictive and a diuretic. So, don't risk dehydration by drinking these while exercising.


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The University of Michigan provides information and links about energy drinks. In particular, this web page discusses the dangers of energy drinks when mixed with alcohol, used before or during exercise and the danger posed to children.
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For a detailed description about how energy drinks work and an explanation about their ingredients, go here.

For a very detailed description of energy drinks and their effects on health, the University of California provides this publication for free. It includes comparisons of the caffeine levels in various brands of energy drinks. There is also useful information about some of the other ingredients in energy drinks and what they claim to do and most importantly, which claims can be substantiated.
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Kidshealth is an excellent source of information about health issues surrounding children and teens. KidsHealth provides families with information, perspective, advice, and comfort about a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioral issues that affect children and teens.
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Since all energy drinks rely heavily on caffeine to generate their effects, here is a web page to learn more about caffeine and its influence on you health.
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If you need to convert milligrams to ounces, this online converter makes it easy.

Arria AM, O'Brien MC. The "High" Risk of Energy Drinks. JAMA. 2011 Jan 25. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 21266673.
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