Friday, April 11, 2008

Rise In The Energy Drink Industry

Perhaps the most under-noticed behavioral trend over the past several years has been the rise in the energy drink industry, which in a short time has gone from zero to $3.4 billion in sales. This trend was troubling when the drinks were advertised as being high in sugar and caffeine. But they are alarming now because the drinks are beginning to contain alcohol.

Alarming, that is, because the cans often are not labeled clearly as containing alcohol, which apparently makes it easier for minors to purchase them, and for people to drink them without knowing what they're getting.

It's time for the Food and Drug Administration to take a hard look at this industry, requiring clear labeling and putting an end to false advertising.

For example, the word "energy" is misleading. The ingredients in these drinks almost certainly do not help long-term energy needs, nor do they help athletic performance. They most likely dehydrate athletes.
ome drink companies go so far as to claim that the alcohol in their products will not lead to hangovers or other impairments because of the other energy components.

Those claims are without merit or scientific support.

But then, the overall science on these drinks is scant. Some of the drinks contain, in one can, more than three times the amount of caffeine physicians say people can safely consume in a day. Hospitals and poison centers have been reporting incidents in connection with these drinks. Meanwhile, some experts estimate that new energy drinks come on the market at the rate of one per day, and they do so with little regulation.

The boom in this new industry has led established soft-drink manufacturers, such as Coca-Cola, to come up with variations of their own. The alcohol industry also is developing alcoholic energy drinks -- a phrase that on its own should be considered laughably contradictory.

This trend should raise numerous alarms. The first is that a generation of young people will be led to become dependent on a daily dose of stimulants, when the best way to peak performance involves a good night's sleep and proper nutrition. The second is that the high caloric content in these drinks will add to a growing obesity problem. The third concerns alcoholism and the awful effects alcohol has on young, developing minds.

All are good reasons for the FDA to become involved.

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