For many people, energy drinks have become a quick and easy meal replacement, for an ‘early morning energy boost’ or in the middle of a long day. Energy drinks have become increasingly popular in recent years, however, they can be dangerous when consumed in excess.
Energy drinks contain high quantities of sugar, caffeine, and various other stimulants of which we are unaware of. They can be dangerous to young minds and bodies due to their high caffeine levels.
Caffeine is described as a drug that is naturally found in seeds or leaves of various plants. It aims to make people feel more alert by giving off a temporary energy boost while improving their mood. The temporary feeling it provides makes it easy to overlook the side effects of consuming energy drinks regularly.
Learners and students are not fully informed on the pros and cons of consuming energy drinks, thus believing that it will make them alert and have longer concentration periods.
Addictive to young and old
A young learner, Junior Zikhali from Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, says he is unaware of the dangers his regular consumption may possess. He says he is ignorant of how energy drinks may have an influence on the fast heartbeats he experiences after drinking one.
“It has an addictive side because even though it has given me a few heart problems, I still drink it without drinking enough water because of how it tends to satisfy me,” he says.
Educator Alwande Sangweni from Utrecht in KwaZulu-Natal, highlights the behaviour of his learners after consuming energy drinks, most specifically after break time.
”Learners carry their energy drinks to school, but I witness most drinking them after break time. There are always high energy levels that affect their concentration, as they seem to drop as the day proceeds, and I think that is when they need more. We, as teachers, should educate our students on the risks of consuming energy drinks and educate them on healthier alternatives. Also, there should be some restrictions to limit the availability of energy drinks to learners,” he says.
There are some benefits
Energy drinks are beneficial for sports performance and physical activities. This appeals to students involved in those activities, so they consume them for these benefits as they are furthermore sold without regulations, and are easily accessible.
Fitness coach Bethany Tapp from Iowa in the United States told Health For Mzansi that some energy drinks can be good for you as they contain a few B vitamins, while some have electrolytes that can help one stay hydrated. She, however, cautions that energy drinks contain stimulants that can be dangerous to your health.
“There need to be more warnings around using high amounts of caffeine prior to exercising or even a sports practice,” she adds.
Watch out for your heart
“Energy drinks can cause complications such as high blood pressure, irritability, insomnia, and anxiety. In the long term, these drinks can cause more serious health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, poor dental health, migraines, and cardiovascular and neurological effects,” says medical practitioner Dr Mhlengi M Mhlongo from Newcastle KwaZulu-Natal.
He explains that if children have too much caffeine, it can lead to serious, life-threatening heart problems as they are at a higher risk for heart issues from excess caffeine because their body size is much smaller compared to adults.
It is also known how energy drinks have been linked as the primary start to several heart problems. Consuming large amounts of energy drinks can also cause ignorance in water thirst, leading to dehydration which can lead to extra strain on the heart and inability to concentrate.
Pharmacist Kimberlin Tshabangu from the Free State explains how caffeine can work the same way as any addictive drug because of how it targets the central nervous system due to its addictive ingredients.
They can provide a boost of energy, but it is important to understand moderation, and making healthy lifestyle choices.
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