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High Energy Drinks vs Coffee

November 26, 2010

Recently there has been lots of press, pro and con, about a high energy drink called Four Loko. Because it has caused hospitalizations of some university students and has received much criticism, the company decided to remove the caffeine from the ingredient list.

Chris Moody wrote several articles about the drink on The Daily Caller website. He reports that Students Against Drunk Driving have come out against such drinks, and while they suggested that the companies that make them police themselves, they also applauded government intervention. Another group to speak out against them was the Christian Women’s Temperance Union (WCTU), who went much further and asked for a ban not only on these energy drinks, but also mixed coffee and alcohol drinks in bars.

You might wonder what this has to do with coffee drinkers. If you like Four Loko, please consider that though they are removing the “caffeine”, the drink still has taurine, guarana and sugar, plus alcohol. Taurine and guarana are powerful stimulants. Taurine is necessary for the body to function, and it occurs in us naturally, but in added amounts over 3000 milligrams, it’s not safe. Guarana is derived from a seed of a rainforest plant; it has up to three times the amount of caffeine as coffee. When you add a whole lot of sugar to these stimulants, you’re getting a lot of energy. If you’re planning to run a marathon, it might get worked off, but if you’re sitting around with friends, it might not be so good. It’s unclear how much the alcohol adds to the negative health mix, and a lot depends on your body and how it handles alcohol. We are not all the same.

Some of the drink’s critics are making sweeping statements that the mixing of alcohol and caffeine is dangerous. This is where coffee lovers, who may like Irish coffee (personal favorite of this writer), or peppermint schnapps in coffee, could find it taken off the drink list of your favorite bar. Of course, it will still be possible to mix such coffee drinks at home, but if the WCTU has its way, home will be the only location such drinks may be enjoyed. People have been enjoying alcohol-enhanced coffee for years without problem; possibly this is because such folks are older, or maybe because they tend to drink them more slowly. Even so, the ingredient amounts are much less for each such coffee drink.

There's one other point: the caffeine used in many soft drinks is an additive. In coffee, it's naturally occurring. There’s a difference to the body in their effects after consumption. When consuming a food with supplementation, you are not getting all the accompanying elements which might help modify the effects on the body. Furthermore, coffee is not all the same. Different roasts and different preparations result in different levels of caffeine. It’s important to realize this as coffee is being lumped together with generic “caffeinated” drinks. There may be a world of difference.




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