By Gamuchirai Mugadzaweta
A GLANCE at my 11-year-old nephew gulping an energy drink got me worried.
What would be the future of a young lad relying on energy supplements at his age?
With his metabolism still functioning well, why opt for a supplementary energy drink that might have severe side-effects in the long run?
One’s health must be guarded jealously by desisting from taking artificial supplements.
Many students have turned to energy drinks to stay awake in preparation for examinations.
Although it seems helpful, it is a death sentence activated each day.
Energy drinks make one hyperactive.
Energy drinks commonly found on the market include brands like Dragon, Red Bull, Switch, Amp, Monster, Burn, Relentless and Full Throttle, among a host of others.
Their brand names say it all!
In Zimbabwe, the new education curriculum has brought pressure to students as they now have more subjects than before.
Charles Mahaka, a student writing his ‘O’-Levels in November this year, said he had no option but to have energy drinks that keep him awake.
“I am writing ‘O’-Level exams in November and I have to study for many hours,” he said.
“I sleep for four hours only these days.
“I need to be awake at night and I can only manage to do that by taking energy drinks.”
Energy drinks are not only popular with high school students as their counterparts in tertiary colleges also rely on them.
Charles Paundi, a university student now hooked on energy drinks said he took them to keep awake all night long.
Said Paundi: “I started taking the energy drinks when I was a first year student.
“I am now in my final year and I am hooked on the energy booster.
“My worry is, I prefer the energy drink even when I am not studying.
“It is now my source of energy.
“I have realised that I no longer get thirsty the way I used to. “One glass of water a day is now enough.
“The energy drink does the trick.”
Chipo Sande, an athlete, said she relied on energy drinks for the long distance runs .
“I am a long distance runner and have competed in the 20km marathon over the years,” she said.
“I use two bottles of energy drinks to keep fit each day.”
Energy drinks are appreciated worldwide by athletes, students, professionals in highly demanding fields as well as truck drivers on long trips.
According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, energy drinks are more dangerous to the heart than drinks with caffeine only.
Part of the journal says: “Too much caffeine can cause a rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure and can cause side effects such as sleeping problems, a rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure.
In addition, it can cause side effects such as problems sleeping, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, muscle tremors
Caffeine can cause more serious issues for people who have heart problems or who take certain medications.
Caffeine overdose can lead to a number of symptoms, including palpitations, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, convulsions and, in some cases, even death.
Another complication is type 2 diabetes, as high consumption of caffeine reduces insulin sensitivity.
Young people who regularly consume energy drinks could have a higher chance of obesity and dental issues.
Over time, the consumption of many energy drinks could possibly also lead to type 2 diabetes.”
The amount of sugar in energy drinks varies depending on the brand.
It ranges from nine teaspoons to 18.
It was noted that energy drink consumption increases blood pressure in healthy young adults
A man in the UK reported signs of dark urine, abdominal pain and jaundice due to his consumption of four-to-five energy drinks a day over the course of three weeks.
This resulted in the build-up of niacin in his liver, leading to him developing hepatitis.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, appears in at least three popular energy drinks, but too much niacin in one’s body can also increase diabetes risk.
Energy drinks have become increasingly popular over the years; their ingredients — many of which do not have a well-established safety profile — are now being looked at more closely.
Can a generation depending on these artificial supplements live up to 70 years, the life expectancy age?
Traditional drinks like maheu made from sorghum, left-over sadza are now for the old and few loyal drinkers who adore the natural taste.
Breast feeding mothers intending to wean babies from breast milk are enoucraged to use supplements like maheu, while avoiding fizzy drinks.
Today, we admire those with grey hair, yet the secret is simple – they have been eating natural foods with less side-effects.
I vividly remembered a song by Oliver Mtukudzi, ‘Mupfumi ndiyani ane mari kana hutano?’ (Who is richer, a monied person or a healthy person?)
We might be busy giving our children the best education but if we ignore what they eat, their future will be in danger.
A medical doctor, Pius Banda said he does not recommend the consumption of energy drinks.
Said Dr Banda: “I would not recommend energy boosters.
“The caffeine found in the drinks can lead to heart palpitations, anxiety and insomnia.
“This can make one feel jittery and irritable.
“Over time, caffeine can become addictive.
“It is a diuretic that causes the kidneys to remove extra fluid into the urine.
“So taking an energy drink while exercising can be very dangerous.
“The combination of the diuretic and sweating can lead to severe dehydration.
“Some people even mix energy drinks and spirits to make a high-energy cocktail.
“Alcohol is a depressant with a tranquilising effect on the body that can make one unaware of how much drink one has taken.”
And since both alcohol and energy drinks dehydrate when combined, they can cause the body’s fluids to drop to dangerous levels.
People taking such a cocktail have been known to die although this has not been conclusively attributed to the effect of energy drinks.
Most of the energy drinks on the market contain carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, sodium cyclamate, preservative, tumrine, sodium benzoate, caffeine, caramel, inositol, glucoronolactone, niacin,
calcium pantihenate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and colourant (quinoline yellow), among other dangerous chemicals.
We will look more closely at these ingredients in our next instalment.