Energy Drink Buzz Part I

Last year, teenagers and young adults spent almost two and a half billion dollars on heavily caffinated energy drinks with names like Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and even, Cocaine.

Combined with other ingredients they give people who drink them a real kick.

But are they safe?

People have enjoyed drinks with caffeine for thousands of years.

A cup of coffee, or two, or three in the morning is the beverage of choice worldwide.

Trendy coffee shops have become a phenomenon in the last decade, serving up espresso, cappuccino and latte like never before.

Caffeine itself, has many medicinal benefits.

Now strongly vying for the caffeine market is a new breed of animal, the energy drink.

Two years ago, there were roughly ten energy drinks on the market, now store shelves are bursting with hundreds to choose from.

And teens and young adults are buying them.

Allyse Walton is a pretty typical high school junior, often burning the midnight oil. “I have homework, I have swim practice and teachers and coaches aren't too understanding if you're tired, you have to work and get things done. And, I need to stay awake.”

Since a jolt is what its drinkers want, manufacturers are pushing caffeine levels to a new high, with stealth advertising campaigns, aimed at the younger generation.

Listen to this one from an energy drink called Cocaine.

"Marketing research have referred to energy drinks as liquid cocaine, or speed in a can. Well now there is."

"Cocaine energy drink! The legal alternative."

The legal alternative?

So, are these energy drinks harmless boosters, or are they a tempest in a can?

Many of these drinks are being marketed as natural.

Red Bull came charging onto the international scene 20 years ago and while they don't suggest anyone under 13 drink it, reps told us it is good for you.

Brittney Baxter, Red Bull Mobile Energy team member says, “It is filled with Vitamin B's which help with mental and alertness, so it's really good for driving.”

Many energy drinks, like Red Bull, contain an ingredient many question.

Taurine got Red Bull banned in France where a study showed rats fed taurine exhibited bizarre behavior, including anxiety, irritability, a high sensitivity to noise, sudden jumps in their cages, and most of all, self mutilations.

Just to give you an example of the caffeine amounts alone, we picked four drinks including coffee, Coke, a Red Bull and Cocaine.

Coke has about 34 milligrams of caffeine in a 12 oz can.

A can of Red Bull with four fewer ounces has two and a half times that amount.

The Cocaine, a whopping eight times that of Coke.

Now an average cup of coffee has more caffeine than either Coke or a Red Bull.

So why the concern over energy drinks?

Doctors say you choose what to put in your coffee.

With energy drinks you do not have a choice.

Dr. Hseih says energy drinks are not necessarily dangerous, but people need to know what is in them. “There's caffeine in it, but also a product called ephedrine. Ephedrine is a chemical that can really stimulate your brain, but can also really stimulate your heart and raise your blood pressure at the same time.

We want to point out Red Bull is not one of the drinks containing ephedra.

Now, these drinks are extremely popular among college students and Dr. Hsieh says it is changing their very nature.

Young adults are also mixing energy drinks with alcohol.

Stay tuned to WNDU for more on Energy Drinks.

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