The anti Energy drink wowser brigade

Posted by on 12 July, 2010

Reports that Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Centre's director Professor Dan Lubman has called for Energy drinks containing caffeine, cleverly masked as the health-food-esque ‘guarana’ to be banned and blaming their mixture with alcohol for fueling violence among young people got me intrigued. That’s a euphemism for eye rolling.

These sorts of horror stories sure get headlines, but let’s look at the facts;

  • A standard ‘V’ or ‘Red Bull’ contains 80mg of guarana (read caffeine). That compares to;
  • A standard shot of Espresso coffee; 80mg
  • A 600ml bottle of Diet Coke; 80mg
  • A chocolate bar; 50mg
  • A cup of tea; 30-50mg
Once we start knocking back 3 or 4 big cans of Energy Drinks, we’re looking at a reasonable caffeine dose to be sure, but banning them altogether is completely over the top and not based on science. There is no evidence that in low dose caffeine causes any harm to teenagers.

In fact as caffeine is a known performance enhancer in sport, a lot of the healthiest and sportiest kids are the ones downing Energy drinks pre-match and so are nervous students in the highest IQ centiles because caffeine helps you concentrate in an exam, especially after an allnighter studying. And many of my Italian and South American friends’ kids have grown up on coffee as have successive generations in their families with no discernable disastrous effects.

As for the Red Bull Vodka combo, there is also no evidence mixing energy drinks with alcohol causes a nasty interaction. But there is PLENTY of evidence alcohol with or without Energy Drink mixers is harmful to adolescents. And guess what? It’s already banned for sale to minors and we all know how much good that’s doing! So before vilifying a product without any evidence that they do harm, let’s concentrate on what we do know;

  • Alcohol binges are bad and every effort should be made to curb this blight on our society.
  • Illegal drugs cause mental health problems for adolescents and enforcement of this legitimate existing ban should be stepped up.
  • Sugar in soft drinks makes kids fat- we have loads of research supporting this. Let’s tax the stuff to divert funds to obesity research and try to protect our kids’ health.
  • Research needs to be done before we claim any harms from Energy Drinks.
  • Everything in moderation.