Thursday, July 7, 2011

5 Myths About Energy Drinks

Now I know that energy drinks don’t directly relate to gaming but in my experience most gamers tend to consume vast quantities of caffeine be it through energy drinks or other means. I have also noticed that said gamers recieve a lot of grief from friends and family for it. For the most part, the disapproval is seems entirely unfounded and parents are very misinformed about energy drinks and caffeine in general. This post is meant to shed some light on several myths being circulated about energy drinks.

5. Taurine Comes From Bull Urine / Semen
I’ll be honest, this is one I hadn’t heard until very recently, but after some research I found that it is a widely circulated myth.

Taurine is a sulfonic acid that is a major constituent of bile. For those of you who don’t know what bile is, it is a substance secreted by the liver that aids in digestion. This simple explanation alone shows that it is neither derived from urine or semen.

Taurine is, however, named after the Latin word for bull, taurus. It was originally isolated from ox bile back in 1827. Of course, bull bile is not where taurine found in energy drinks is taken from. Taurine today is completely synthetic and is obtained from isethionic acid via various chemical reactions.

For those of you still sceptical about ingesting taurine, you should know that we actually take it in daily as it occurs naturally in many of our foods, especially meat. The average person consumes about 58mg of taurine a day simply through eating. That, by no means, is anywhere near the 1000mg per serving that many energy drinks supply, but it’s still there.

4.  Caffeine Stunts Growth in Children
I, personally, started drinking coffee at a relatively young age and was constantly bombarded with warnings of how I was going to stop growing. I actually fell pray to this one for many years. I truly believed that I was never going to reach to my full height potential. Today I stand over six feet tall, not exactly short by most standards.

This myth originates decades ago when it was thought that caffeine increased the chance of osteoporosis and thus reduced bone mass. Years of new research, however, have discredited these claims. Instead it seems caffeine plays little to no role in decreasing calcium absorption.

3. Caffeine Has No Beneficial Effects
It’s a common belief that the only beneficial effect of caffeine is the perception of energy by the individual consuming it. Non-energy drinkers tend to use this as a common mocking point. Of course, this is very untrue.

Many studies have shown beneficial effects in several areas of the brain. Caffeine increases activity in the frontal lobe, where part of the working memory is located. It also increases activity in the cingulate cortex, a part of the brain the controls attention. Participants who consumed caffeine performed better in memory tasks than those who didn’t.

The brain isn’t the only place of benefit, caffeine has also been shown to increase athletic performance and exercise recovery. Runners who consumed a post-workout beverage that was high in carbohydrates and caffeine increased their body’s storage of muscle glycogen by 60% over those with a solely carbohydrate beverage. In Lehman's terms, the caffeine helped them recover much faster.

If that weren’t enough, there is now evidence that caffeine may decrease risk of heart disease.

All of this is not to say that there aren’t downsides of caffeine, but we hear about those all the time. It is all about being smart with your caffeine consumption.

2. Caffeine is Deadly in High Doses
Okay, this one is actually true, caffeine really CAN kill you. The actual LD50, or median lethal dose, of caffeine is between 150 and 200mg per kg body weight.

An average cup of coffee has around 100mg of caffeine. This means it would take more that 80 cups of coffee to kill an average person. You try to drink 80 cups of coffee in one sitting! I know I couldn’t.

The only real way to overdose on caffeine would be to take large amounts of caffeine pills, and there have been a few reports of this. There are also rare individuals who may have severe reactions to it and thus their lethal dose would be MUCH lower.

Caffeine IS deadly in high doses, but it is nearly impossible to reach the doses needed under normal conditions. Still not convinced? Aspirin kills FAR more people every year than caffeine does. Think about that.

1. Caffeine Counteracts Alcohol
This is a myth that I really cannot believe is even around anymore and yet, somehow, at nearly every party I go to I see someone trying to sober up by drinking A TON of coffee. This myth is a very dangerous one. If a person thinks they are too drunk to drive but that they can sober up with a cup of coffee that person is much more likely to get behind the wheel.

People tend to get this idea by hearing that alcohol is a depressant (downer) and caffeine is a stimulant (upper). From here they infer that uppers + downers = sober. Biology, however, is not as simple as addition.

Alcohol works as an allosteric modulator of the GABAA receptor while caffeine acts as a nonselective antagonist of adensosine receptors. It works this way because caffeine is structurally similar to the aglycone of adenosine and therefor works as a competitive inhibitor.

Long story short, caffeine and alcohol work through different mechanisms and thereby do not counteract each other. Really though, you don’t need to look at the pathways to figure this out. Just look at Four Loko, an alcoholic energy drink. Do you really think it would have been popular if it’s ingredients counteracted each other?


Anonymous said...

Huh. The more you know.

...Think about that one, Rams.

Ryan (Entr0p1k) said...

Lol, now I really wanna know who posted that.

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