Energy drinks are the beverage of choice for America’s military men and women, but according to a new article from the Department of Defense, it would do them better if they down less of them, due to the “serious harm” the drinks can do on one’s body.
On Wednesday, the Department of Defense posted the article on the Army’s official website, stressing that energy drinks do serve their purpose to help soldiers stay alert. But if consumed in copious amounts, the DoD warned that such drinks could end up “doing some serious harm.”
“Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members,” wrote the DoD.
“The marketing is sexy; the packaging is slick; the flavors are sweet like the fruit drinks that children crave; and the beverages are readily available on military bases and downrange. But, there are real reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.”
A report from Vocativ stated that It’s a well-known fact how energy drinks are popular with military men and women. For example, Rip It has been offered for free in mess halls in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004, and has been pushed as the “unofficial drink of the U.S. Military.” The drink has also been hyped up as the beverage that “essentially fueled” American soldiers during recent skirmishes in the Middle East. There’s also Monster, one of the more well-known energy drinks in the market – a 2014 report from Business Insider called it the “military’s favorite beverage.”
Vocativ cited some statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, as the government agency found in 2012 that approximately 45 percent of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan consumed at least one energy drink a day; close to five percent of the people interviewed admitted consuming five drinks or more.
The Department of Defense cited Dr. Patricia Deuster of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, who said that soldiers are advised against drinking more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per four hours. She suggests that service members carefully tally the amount of caffeine in the beverages they consume – that includes coffee, soft drinks, and especially energy drinks.
Deuster was also quoted as saying that women in the military should be especially careful when consuming these beverages, as the amount of caffeine consumed relative to a woman’s body weight plays more of a factor in women than men, as they are generally lighter.
The side effects of consuming high amounts of caffeine include a rise in blood pressure, heart palpitations, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, dehydration, and if energy drinks are consumed with alcohol, bowel irritability. But Deuster said that doctors still aren’t sure what’s in it for people who consume too many energy drinks.
“Doctors don’t know what the effects of the ingredients are in larger doses. I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long-term effects question.”
High sugar content is another problem with energy drinks, according to the Department of Defense, which called the beverages “sugar bombs” in its article. Some drinks include about 27 grams of sugar per can, which is two-thirds the recommended maximum for males, and two grams more than what is recommended for females. Considering that service members often consume more than one can per day, that could easily have them exceeding the limits. But it’s the “mystery” ingredients that are of the most concern to experts, including Deuster, who singled out taurine as a particular ingredient worth looking into.
“The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many energy drink makers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance, but researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report that little is actually is known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.”
If energy drinks are so harmful for those in the military, what’s the best alternative in that case? According to Deuster the answer is as simple as it gets – “good old water.”
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]