As more students turn to energy drinks to help pull all-nighters, health concerns about the beverages are also on the rise.
The energy drink industry raked in $477 million in 2006-07, a 34-percent leap from the previous year, according to an Information Resources report.
"In the last 10 years we noticed an absolute explosion in energy-drink market," said Chad Reissig, a John Hopkins School of Medicine researcher and author of a recent review of caffeinated beverages and energy drinks in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
But Hopkins researchers also found problems in the industry, including the lack of information available about what these drinks are made of, as well as the considerable variation in caffeine concentrations that energy drinks contain.
While Coke and Pepsi-Cola pack caffeine in the range of 34 to 38 mg in a 12-ounce serving, Red Bull and Monster have roughly 120 mg. Shot-sized energy drinks can crunch as much as 171 mg in a single ounce.
Food and Drug Administration regulations limit the chemical to 71 mg for 12 ounces in soft drinks.
However, since energy drinks are classified as dietary supplements, companies can put significantly greater amounts of caffeine in their drinks, with consumers often unaware of these differences.
Labels on packaging often don't specify caffeine concentrations, making it difficult for customers to compare products and gauge how much to drink.
Manufacturers often don't reveal this information when contacted directly either, added Reissig.
In 2005, caffeine resulted in 4,600 calls to poison control centers nationwide, found a University of Massachusetts report.
Hopkins researchers also found that the relatively recent trend of mixing energy drinks with alcohol makes it easy for people to underestimate how drunk they are.
Concerns also center on the correlation between energy drinks and later stimulant use, leading researchers to compare them to gateway drugs.
Students may not know the exact quantities of caffeine loaded in certain energy drinks, but some take precautions against possible negative health effects.
"I know a lot of people who [think] no sleep is the college way," said College freshman Marissa Dean, who added that she prefers to stay away from all forms of caffeine due to health concerns.
College freshman Lauren Harding said there is more pressure to turn to energy drinks, noting that her hallmates make midnight runs to Wawa frequently. She limits herself to no more than three caffeinated drinks a day.
College senior and Harrison Cafe Prima manager Alex Dolan said sales of Red Bull have gone up notably, but general sales have been on the rise everywhere.
Students come "more by convenience than by specific demand for energy drinks," he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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