Added: 24th June 2015
…Caffeine has had some bad press over recent decades, with some people eschewing coffee in favour of allegedly healthier alternatives from decaf coffee to green tea and even plain hot water.
But, scientific evidence shows that drinking a few cups of coffee a day can protect against several diseases (including type 2 diabetes) and that many of the health benefits of coffee are unrelated to caffeine.
Although some consumers view energy drinks as a nice alternative to coffee, energy drinks actually contain very high doses of caffeine and sugar, as well as preservatives and other potentially harmful chemicals. Energy drinks are a short-term solution that can lead to bingeing, and in extreme cases could even result in a caffeine overdose. A recent World Health Organisation report found that two thirds of European teenagers and one fifth of under ten year olds regularly imbibe energy drinks, but a review of the ingredients suggests these drinks may actually be giving them a worse start in life than traditional caffeinated drinks.
The charity ‘Action on Sugar’ surveyed the ingredients of 197 energy drinks sold in UK supermarkets, including brands and own label products, and found they contained up to 15g of sugar per 100ml. To put this in context, over three quarters of the energy drinks measured contained even more sugar than Coca Cola. The health risks of sugar are well-known, obesity is rising and it’s no wonder that Action for Sugar concludes their press release with the statement that ‘it should be illegal to sell energy drinks to under-16s’.
A non-sugary caffeinated drink is much better for you, but even low calorie energy drinks contain artificial sweeteners and chemicals which may be very harmful particularly if consumed daily. Cola drinks contain a similar amount of caffeine to coffee, but many of the energy drinks measured contained far greater doses of caffeine than either of these. In addition, energy drinks are frequently sold in large cans meaning that even higher quantities of these harmful ingredients are consumed.
Although moderate levels of caffeine provide health benefits, excessive caffeine is associated with a range of health problems. The NHS advises pregnant or nursing mothers to avoid caffeine altogether because there is no established safe level of caffeine for babies. Energy drinks, with their huge doses of caffeine, excess sugar and long lists of dubious ingredients should also be avoided. Fortunately, decaffeinated coffee is so widely available nowadays that everyone can still sit down and enjoy a nice refreshing brew.