Health News of Monday, 12 November 2012

Source: GNA

Drink energy drinks in moderation - Pharmacist

Mr. Kwasi Appiah Donkor, a Pharmacist at the Sunyani Municipal Hospital, has said the amount of sugar and caffeine in many of the imported energy drinks could have adverse effects on the health of consumers.

He said although the energy drinks were generally safe, they should be taken in moderation since consuming much could lead to heart palpitations, anxiety, insomnia and could make a person feel jittery and irritable.

In an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Sunyani, Mr Donkor said although it is stated on such drinks that the contents could improve endurance and performance, many health experts disagreed with those claims.

He said a typical energy drink could contain up to 80 milligrammes of caffeine about the same amount as a cup of coffee and are designed for students, athletes and anyone else who wants an extra energy kick.

Mr Donkor said a look at some of the contents of such drinks include: ephedrine, a stimulant that works on the central nervous system, taurine, a natural amino acid produced by the body that helps regulate heart beats and muscle contractions, ginseng, a root believed to have several medicinal properties including reducing stress and boosting energy levels.

He said caffeine worked by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical involved in sleep and when it succeeded in blocking the effects of adenosine, it causes neurons in the brain to work as if the body was in an emergency.

“Thinking that the body is in an emergency, the pituitary gland initiates the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response by releasing adrenaline, a hormone which makes the heart beat faster and the eyes to dilate and causes the liver to release extra sugar into the blood stream for energy.”

Mr Donkor said caffeine also affected the levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain’s pleasure centre and all these physical responses made one feel as though he had more energy.

He said overtime, caffeine could become addictive, cause the kidneys to remove extra fluid into the urine and thereby leave less fluid in the body.

“Drinking an energy drink while exercising could be particularly dangerous since the combination effect of the caffeine as a diuretic and sweating could severely dehydrate the individual,” he said.

Mr Donkor said most people mixed energy drink with alcohol to make a high-energy cocktail, but since alcohol was a depressant, it had a tranquilizing effect on the body that could make the individual unaware of how much he/she had drunk.

“A study found that men who combined energy drink with alcohol felt alert and sober even though they were actually drunk. And since both alcohol and energy drink dehydrate the body when combined they can cause body fluids to drop to dangerous levels,” he explained.

Mr Donkor said because little research had been done on the long term health effects of consuming taurine and other ingredients in the drink, that had led to the misinformation and misuse of energy drinks by the public and urged pregnant women and children to avoid drinking them.

Some energy drinks found on the Ghanaian market are red bull, burn, booster, blox and x-power.