Energy Drinks Offer Little Benefit Besides Caffeine Boost: Report

By An Phung
|  Wednesday, Jan 2, 2013  |  Updated 2:42 PM EDT
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Energy Drinks Offer Little Benefit Besides Caffeine Boost: Report

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Energy drinks like 5-Hour Energy are packed with nutrients and caffeine, but offer little health benefits.

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Bad news for energy drink lovers.

Scientists say that aside from caffeine, energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster Energy and 5-Hour Energy provide little or no added benefit for consumers, according to a report by The New York Times. In fact, one researcher said the same effect on metabolism can be achieved through drinking a cup of coffee.

The latest findings are contrary to energy drink company claims that their beverages are engineered to do something more. Red Bull’s producers claimed that their drink “gives you wings,” and Monster Energy dubbed its drink a “killer energy brew.” These messages have allowed the drink makers to charge a premium for their caffeine concoctions, which helped drive sales to over $10 billion in 2012. A 16-ounce can of energy that sells for $2.99 has the same amount of caffeine as a NoDoz tablet that costs 30 cents.

“These are caffeine delivery systems,” said Dr. Roland Griffiths, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University told the Times. “They don’t want to say this is equivalent to a NoDoz because that is not a very sexy sales message.”

Energy drink makers like Rockstar Energy and 5-Hour Energy pack in ingredients like B vitamins that offer little benefit to drinkers, as most healthy people get adequate amounts of it from food, according to scientists. The Times report homed in on two other ingredients commonly found in energy drinks, glucuronolactone and taurine, and said their health benefits are not backed by science. The use of glucuronolactone is especially puzzling to scientists. One scientific journal, Nutrition Reviews, even admitted that they were clueless as to why glucuronolactone is used.

“Certainly, this is one ingredient for which evidence-based studies are needed to justify its popularity,” wrote the researchers.

Drink manufacturers claim that it is their proprietary formula and not a specific ingredient that gives consumers the physical and mental edge. Scientists say, however, any perceived increase in energy comes from the sugar and the concentrated levels of caffeine. And since the drinks are typically swallowed quickly, the caffeine kicks in faster.

The energy drink industry has come under scrutiny recently by the Food and Drug Administration after reports of illness or death of people who consumed their beverages. In November, the FDA announced that they received reports of 13 deaths over the last four years that are possibly related to 5-Hour Energy. The month before, the FDA looked into reports of five deaths of people who drank Monster Energy.

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