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Energy drinks refer to beverages that contain large doses of caffeine and other legal stimulants such as taurine, carbohydrates, glucuronolactone, inositol, niacin, panthenol, and β-complex vitamins which are considered as source of energy (Attila and Çakir, 2009). The consumption of readily available energy drinks has increased significantly with young adults forming the largest part of the consumers. History of energy drink dates back to 1987 when Red Bull was introduced in Austria. It became more popular in the 1990s following its introduction to the United States. Since then the sale of this drink has increased exponentially. In 2006, the energy drink market grew by 80% (Foran et al., 2011). This is because manufactures claim the drinks can boost energy levels as well as physical endurance, improve concentration and reaction speed (Van den Eynde et al., 2008).
In recent years, a number of different energy drinks have been introduced in the Nigerian market to provide an energy boost or as dietary supplements. These drinks are marketed specifically to children and young adults. These products have been used for various reasons. A survey conducted among college students shows that 67% of students admitted using energy drinks to cope with insufficient sleep, 65% mentioned increasing energy and 54% use it for fun at parties; 50% for studying or completing a major course project, 45% used it while driving a car for a long period of time and 17% for treating hangover (Malinauskas et al., 2007). These products have also been used to reduce the depressor effect of alcohol or even to gain social status (Ferreira et al., 2004; Kaminer, 2010).
Many energy drinks are promoted as being nutraceutical foods, boosting health, energy, or otherwise having sought-after benefits. There is some concern among health professionals that these beverages, and the drinking behaviours of the targeted consumers, may in fact have adverse health consequences. The most commonly reported adverse effects include insomnia, nervousness, headache, and tachycardia (Clauson et al., 2008). In a recent study, heavy consumption of energy drinks was attributed to new onset seizures in four patients (Iyadurai and Chung, 2007) and hospitalization of individuals with pre-existing mental illness (Chelben et al., 2008).
1.1 Energy Drinks
Energy drinks first appeared in Europe and Asia in the 1960s in response to consumer demand for a dietary supplement that would result in increased energy (Reissig et al., 2008). In 1962, a Japanese company, Taisho Pharmaceuticals, launched Lipovitan D, one of the very first energy drinks, which is still dominating the Japanese market. Since the 1960s, the energy drink market has grown into a multibillion dollar business which has been reported as being the fastest growing segment in the beverage industry. Energy drinks have established a viable position in the beverage market as evidenced by their commonplace consumption in the morning, afternoon, and night, not only by the general consumer, but those of age 18 to 34 in particular (Lal, 2007).
The popularity of energy drinks and the growth in their consumption among adolescents and young adults have brought worries regarding general health and well being of these consumers. Adolescents and young adults are often uninformed about the content of energy drink (Rath, 2012).
1.2 Contents of Energy Drinks
There are hundreds of energy drinks available in the market, many share very similar ingredient profiles. Most of these energy drinks consist mainly of caffeine, Taurine, Guarana, Ginseng, B vitamins, Ginko Biloba, L-carntine, sugars, Antioxidants, Glucuronolactone, Yerba Mate, Creatine, Acai Berry, Milk Thistle, L-theanine, Inositol and artificial sweetners (Babu et al., 2008).
Caffeine is probably the most frequently ingested pharmacologically active substance in the world. It is one of the main ingredients of stimulant drinks and it is also present in tea, coffee and other beverages and foods. Caffeine is extracted from the raw fruit of over sixty species of coffee plants (coffea Arabica), all part of the methylxanthine family. The dimethylxanthine derivatives, theophylline and theobromine, are also found in a variety of plants. It is also extracted from tea, kola nuts, and cocoa. The average total intake of caffeine in the Republic of Ireland and the UK is estimated to be 214 and 278 mg per person per day, respectively (FSPB, 2010). Data from the consumption survey, based on weekly intake, indicates that among stimulant drink consumers, the average daily caffeine intake from stimulant drinks alone would be approximately 35 mg, rising to about 90 mg among the highest consumers (FSPB, 2010). This does not appear excessive. However, when the consumption of stimulant drinks in a single session was investigated, the average caffeine consumed was approximately 240 mg (3 cans), rising to about 640 mg (8 cans) among the highest consumers (FSPB, 2010). Such large intake levels among the highest consumers are a cause of concern, particularly in relation to the known potential acute health effects of caffeine such as tachycardia, increases in blood pressure and dehydration,
as well as behavioural and cognitive effects. The health effects of chronic or habitual caffeine consumption remain uncertain.
Taurine (2-aminoethyl sulfonic acid) is a sulfur containing amino acid that is the most abundant amino acid found naturally in our bodies, primarily in the retina and skeletal and cardiac muscle tissue (Timbrell et al., 1995; Imagawa et al., 2009). Taurine is derived from the metabolism of methionine and cysteine (Huxtable, 1992; Stipanuk, 2004). It is also present in common food items such as meat and fish. The data on stimulant drink intake among stimulant drink consumers indicate that average daily taurine intake from stimulant drinks was approximately 0.4 g, increasing to about 1 g among the highest consumers (FSPB, 2010). The most taurine consumed from stimulant drinks in a single session was averaged at approximately 3 g, rising to about 8 g by the highest consumers (FSPB, 2010). Stimulant drink intake at the maximum level of intake provides taurine far in excess of that from other foods or beverages in the diet. Data available indicate no evidence of adverse effects of taurine at such intakes and in a recent report the EU Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) was unable to conclude that the ‗safety-in-use‘ of taurine in the concentration range reported for stimulant drinks has been adequately established (EU SCF, 1983).
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a native South American plant containing guaranine, a substance chemically similar to caffeine with comparable stimulant effects. Guarana is often added to stimulant drinks, either in combination with caffeine or on its own. The stimulant effect of guarana is related to its caffeine content; one gram of guarana contains
as much caffeine (40 mg) as a medium strength cup of coffee. The precise source and nature of the stimulant activity of guarana is not well understood. However, it has been reported that guarana exerts a more prolonged effect than an equivalent amount of caffeine. The Food and Drinks Administration (FDA) in the USA currently prohibits the use of guarana in food and drinks while awaiting further clarification on its safety (USFDA, 2011).
This is a naturally occurring substance produced in small amounts within the body. Supplementation with d-glucarates, including glucuronolactone, may favor the body‘s natural defense mechanism for eliminating carcinogens and tumor promoters and their effects (Zołtaszek et al., 2008). The data from the consumption survey indicate that average daily glucuronolactone intake from stimulant drinks was approximately 0.25 g, rising to about 0.7 g among the highest consumers (FSPB, 2010). The most glucuronolactone consumed from stimulant drinks in a single session was averaged at approximately 1.8 g, rising to about 4.8 g among the highest consumers (FSPB, 2010). These maximum levels of intake provide more glucuronolactone than would otherwise be achieved through other foods or beverages in the diet. There is very little information available for risk assessment of glucuronolactone at such intakes. There is no indication from the available data that there is any risk to health from consumption of high amounts of glucuronolactone, although these data are limited.
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