Energy drinks pose health risks to students

Kathryn Yslas
Mesa Legend

Katie YslasBetween making the grade, working full time, and keeping an active social life, students often find themselves in need of a boost.  While a cup of coffee with multiple shots of espresso has been the secret weapon of stressed college students for decades, many have turned to another source for their coveted caffeine high.  Energy drinks like Monster and Rockstar are now becoming the method of choice to keep a student going through their rigorous college schedules.  What students don’t realize, however, is that energy drinks are a temporary solution that can lead to serious consequences that can last long after graduation day.

Over the last few years, whether due to clever advertising or increased availability in school cafeterias, students have gravitated towards the energy drinks like Amp and Monster.  “I think that young people follow the market trends,” said Lori Zienkewicz, a professor of nutrition and exercise science at MCC. “I think that they do what is cool rather than what is healthy. ”Zienkewicz explained that heavily-caffeinated beverages like energy drinks are not considered food items by the FDA, and therefore are not held to the same health standards.  Instead, energy drinks are classified as dietary supplements, which have few to no regulations when it comes to their contents.

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The high doses of caffeine found in energy drinks can cause stunted growth and cardiac arrest.

Because of this, the caffeine and the supposed “energizing” vitamins are megadosed, resulting in a single energy drink containing up to 10,000 percent of the daily recommended intake.
Regularly ingesting these types of drinks has been linked to suppression of growth as well as sudden cardiac arrest.  “Unfortunately people in their late teens or early 20s are not focused on their long-term health,” said Zienkewicz. “At that point in their life, they’re immortal, and it’s not until you hit your 40s and 50s that you realize that you have one body and you’re not going to get another one.” “What they do now will affect their life in the long run,” she continued.  However, as classwork piles up and work hours increase, students seem all too willing to gamble with their futures.

Joseph Sprinkle, a student at MCC, spoke of his particular need for energy drinks. “I get really tired because I have a full class load,” said Sprinkle. “I mean, I know they’re not good and I’m gonna crash, but I still have to take the risk.” Aubrey Powell, another student, actually claims that the excess caffeine counteracts her symptoms of ADHD, allowing her to actually become calmer.
“Because of the ADHD, the caffeine actually simmers me down. I have anxiety and the caffeine helps with that too. It’s weird and unhealthy, but I guess it works,” she said. Whatever results students gain from drinking overcaffeinated beverages, Zienkewicz insists that they are no substitute for natural energy.

“Your body is like a car and you have to consider the fuel you put into it,” said Zienkewicz. “The best way to stay energized is always going to be a well-balanced diet and 8-9 hours of sleep. Everything else is just going to ruin your engine.”

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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