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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canned Energy

You can’t walk into a shop these days without seeing several brands of energising drinks lining the shelves. Should you indulge, or are you better off looking for a natural pick-me-up? Dr Wynnie Chan investigates

At first, their appearances were sporadic, but now instant energy drinks such as Red Bull and Lipovitan dominate supermarket shelves, dance clubs, bars, gyms, universities – the list is endless. These drinks contain various combinations of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other substances, including caffine, taurine (an amino acid) and glucuronolactone (a natural substance produced by the body when glucose is broken down).

Some of them also contain herbs like royal jelly and ginseng, which are believed to combat stress and fatigue. The drinks’ manufacturers claim that their products will increase physical endurance, improve reaction speed and concentration and boost mental alertness. They also say that energy drinks can increase overall well-being, stimulate metabolism, improve stamina and help eliminate waste from the body.

Most energy drinks use the substances caffeine, taurine and in some cases, glucuronolactone to achieve this quick energy fix. All three of these exist naturally in foods or in our bodies but are present in much higher concentrations in energising drinks, which may be cause for concern. The amount of caffeine in these drinks was reviewed by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) a few years ago and it was determined they were safe for general consumption.

However, the committee found that children who consume two cans daily of such a drink may become irritable and anxious. The drinks are also not recommended for pregnant women as the effect of caffeine on the fetus is still unknown.

Taurine is naturally found in seafood and meat and is believed to help detoxify and cleanse the system. Results from human studies published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine and Advances in Experimental Biology and Medicine have shown that very high concentrations of taurine helped lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

A recent study published in the journal Amino Acids also seems to show the benefits of taurine. They discovered that among a group of endurance athletes, those who had an energy drink containing taurine and glucuronolactone improved their performance, compared to those subjects who had energy drinks without caffeine, taurine or glucuronolactone. The SCF does not, however, have a position on whether or not the amount of taurine present in energy drinks is safe.

Energy drinks can also help you burn fat fast and increase your fitness level.

Have a great day and God bless!

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