What's the Buzz About Energy Drinks?

There are healthier ways to get an energy boost, experts say.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Pimp Juice, Full Throttle, Rock Star, Monster Energy, Rage, Cocaine, Red Bull -- these are some of the high-powered energy drinks being marketed to young adults. The web sites for these products are full of images of macho lifestyles. They promote beverages containing ingredients that sound scientific, but may be unfamiliar to many consumers.

While we all need an energy boost from time to time, an energy drink may not be the best way to get it, experts say. The FDA does not define the term "energy drink"; that label is up to manufacturers' discretion.

"There is scant scientific support for these ingredients to make the kind of claims manufacturers use in hyping their products," says Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Most of the energy from these drinks comes from the sugar and caffeine, not from the unnecessary extras."

She also points out these drinks contain plenty of calories from sugar, which can add up quickly if you drink a few cans.

Aside from caffeine and sugar, some of the more common ingredients are taurine, ginseng, guarana, vitamins, and green tea.

"Most of the energy drinks contain high-tech-sounding ingredients that are not controlled substances, of no value, and potentially harmful" in large amounts, adds Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics.

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