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What’s the hottest thing a teenager can be caught carrying these days, besides Chanel or Balenciaga? Energy drinks!
Even Lindsay Lohan has been photographed with them. Rockstar, Red Bull … the list goes on and on. Of course now that Lindsay’s reportedly clean and sober, she wouldn’t be caught dead mixing these with alcohol. However, this has become a popular trend amongst the rest of partygoers worldwide. Who doesn’t want to be the life of the party? Mixing highly caffeinated beverages with alcohol seems like the perfect potion to stir things up … right? But, what you may not know is that this trend could possibly have dire consequences. Recently, their legality has even been called into question — what are energy drinks even made of? What are the side effects?
Energy drinks are beverages intended to infuse the consumer with vigor and vitality. They attempt to accomplish this with an amalgamation of caffeine, B vitamins and various herbal ingredients. Other common elements include guarana, taurine, gingseng, maltodextrin, inositol, carnitine, creatine and ginko biloba. Many of these drinks also contain high levels of sugar, although recently the sugar-free versions have experienced increased popularity.
The most active ingredient in these drinks is caffeine. Contrary to popular belief, most only contain around the same amount of caffeine as your average cup of coffee (80 mg of caffeine). But, some new energy drinks have started packing as much as 300mg of caffeine. Alone, these beverages seem as harmless as a can of Coca-Cola — but what exactly are the supplemental ingredients added to these energy drinks?
The answer is unknown. Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t know. I was surprised to learn that the FDA, who generally is responsible for safety regulations of food and dietary supplements and most products that we put in our body, do not subject dietary supplements to safety and efficacy testing prior to approval. In fact, the FDA can only take action against a dietary supplement manufacturer after they are proven to be unsafe! For example, Red Bull’s Web site asserts that taurine, an ingredient of Red Bull, "acts as a metabolic transmitter and additionally has a detoxifying effect and strengthens cardiac contractility." However, this is disputed in the scientific community.
So what does this mean? Well, many of these so-called stamina boosting cocktails contain an array of “supplements.” This means that these beverages are not being fully screened by the FDA before they make their way to your refrigerator. The director of Yale’s Research Prevention Center cautions that if your favorite energy drink has some of these additives which are unregulated by the FDA, this means your drink may have side effects that you have no way of anticipating or knowing about.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but before I take any pill, be it prescription or over-the-counter, and especially before I allow one of my children to swallow anything, I always make it my business to find out about the side effects. Since I’m guessing that many of you are the same way, I find it incredible that we are willing to consume untested ingredients that we can’t even pronounce. We need to all remember that just because something says it's natural, it doesn’t mean that it is.
In addition to the mystery of whether these energy drinks will cause unforeseen consequences, the latest trend is mixing these caffeinated concoctions with alcohol. When these invigorating substances are combined in the body with alcohol, it presents an entirely new problem. A study published in “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research,” showed that drinkers felt less intoxicated while drinking alcohol and caffeine (especially the amount found in energy drinks such as Red Bull). Subjects reported feeling less intoxicated even though their coordination tests showed clear impairment.
Feeling less intoxicated than you really are could lead to dangerous results. Drinkers may either consume more alcohol than their body can handle or it could lead someone to falsely believe that they are sober enough to get behind the wheel, which of course endangers countless others. Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey this isn’t what the company intended their drink to be used for.” Well, while Red Bull does not advertise their product as an alcohol mixer, on the question and answer page on its Web site, they fully approve the tradition: A page on their Web site reads, "Can you mix Red Bull with alcohol? Yes!" Now, this is just irresponsible.
Imagine the effects this may have on someone who is old enough to know their limits? What about for an inexperienced or even underage drinker? After all, these underage teenagers are the majority of energy drink consumers! This surely increases the chance for disaster ten-fold. So while it’s clear that Red Bull may give you wings and Rockstar may make you feel like you’re a golden god, when you’re mixing them with alcohol extra caution needs to be taken.
Check back to see what has happened since companies like Anheuser-Busch and Miller have begun marketing alcoholic energy drinks. What are the consequences? Is it even legal? Keep reading Lis on Law to find out the answers!
Click over to read Lis' column, "Lis and the Single Girl."
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• Energy Drink, Wikipedia
• FDA, Wikipedia
• Energy Drinks, Fact Expert
• Energy drinks pack a punch, but is it too much?
• Dietary supplement warning system lacking
• Caffeinated Alcohol Drinks May Lead to DUI
• Official target alcoholic energy drink ads
• Feds Pressed To Probe Alcohol 'Energy' Drinks
• Energy Drinks Are The New Coffee
• "Cocaine" Pulled From Shelves Nationwide
• What Is in Your Energy Drink?
• Must be 18 to buy energy drinks?
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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.