Dirk Hanson over at Addiction Inbox has an excellent piece on the effects of caffeine intoxication. He notes an interesting loophole that allows energy drink manufacturers to include hidden caffeine in drinks containing guarana:
“A milligram of caffeine is a milligram of caffeine. But wait, what about the nifty additives in Full Throttle and Monster and Rockstar? The taurine and… stuff. Taurine is an amino acid found in lots of foods. Good for you in the abstract. Manufacturers also commonly add sugar (excess calories), ginseng (at very low levels), and bitter orange (structurally similar to norepinephrine). However, the truly interesting addition is guarana, a botanical product from South America. When guarana breaks down, it’s principal byproduct is, yes, caffeine. Guarana seeds contain twice the caffeine found in coffee beans. Three to five grams of guarana provide 250 mg of caffeine. Energy drink manufacturers don’t add that caffeine to the total on the label because—oh wait, that’s right, because makers of energy drinks, unlike makers of soft drinks, don’t have to print the amount of caffeine as dietary information. And on an ounce-for-pound basis, kids are getting a lot more caffeine with the new drinks than the older, labeled ones.”
I thought I’d add a little quote from a review published in JAPhA to back up his conclusions on additives such as taurine:
“The amounts of guarana, taurine, and ginseng found in popular energy drinks are far below the amounts expected to deliver either therapeutic benefits or adverse events”
Clauson KA, Shields KM, McQueen CE, & Persad N (2008). Safety issues associated with commercially available energy drinks. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association : JAPhA, 48 (3) PMID: 18595815
So, drink your drink of choice but if you feel you need some added nutrition in your diet, don’t expect to find it in an energy drink.
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