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Serious Sips: Are Energy Drinks and 'Healthy' Sodas Safe?

By , Managing Editor
Saturday, November 17, 2012
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It's all in the payoff. "Energy for hours!" "All the taste with half the calories!" "Hold off hunger!" These are all variations of slogans that have turned the world of soda and energy drinks into a billion-dollar business. Men and women of all ages can't seem to get enough of these sugary, sweet beverages, but recent studies and health alerts have made many people think about the possible impact of their favorite products on their safety.

So when it comes to energy drinks and soda, should you be concerned?

Are energy drinks deadly?
Throughout the past decade, energy drinks have become the beverage of choice for everyone from fitness enthusiasts to college students and busy parents. Whether in a tall can or a small, plastic "shot," these products provide an extra pick-me-up for the overly scheduled and under rested. However, recent studies have linked some of these drinks to fatalities due to their high amounts of ingredients like sugar and caffeine.

Monster Beverage Corp.'s energy drinks were the first to be implicated last month, cited in the cases of five deaths in the past year, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Thirty-seven adverse reaction reports have been submitted to the FDA mentioning these drinks since 2004, while the amount of emergency room visits from patients using these drinks has increased 10-fold between 2005 and 2009, according to Bloomberg.

Just this week, another popular energy drink was called up for investigation after similar reports. According to the FDA, 5-Hour Energy shots have been linked to 13 possible deaths in the past four years. In that same time frame, the shots have been cited in 92 adverse event reports, including 32 reported cases of hospitalization. Living Essentials LLC, the Farmington Hills, Michigan-based distributor of the energy shots is cooperating with the FDA, but not suggesting any known connection between the shots and the fatalities. 5-Hour Energy accounted for 90 percent of the market share as of 2011 and any findings by the FDA could have a major impact on the industry as a whole.

Soda for your health?
Every year, the average American consumes between 45 and 60 gallons of soda. Packed with sugar and caffeine to boost energy and taste and available in countless flavors, the appeal of these drinks is widespread. But as the war on soda heats up in lieu of rising obesity and diabetes rates, the makers of these products are trying to find ways to make them healthier -- but not everyone is a fan.

Just last week, the makers of 7UP were sued for suggesting certain varieties of the popular drink offered the health benefits of antioxidants. David Green, of Sherman Oaks, California, claimed the packaging was misleading, as well as the advertisements of the drink bottles surrounded by fresh fruit, when it fact, they contain not fruit juice, but added vitamin E as a source of antioxidants. This class-action lawsuit could result in the awarding of damages to consumers nationwide. In response, the maker of the soda, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., said the reformulated version of the product will be released in February without antioxidants.

Pepsi's Japanese partner, Suntory Holdings Limited, released Pepsi Special on November 13, as a soda for weight loss and management. This version of the soda contains dextrin, a form of dietary fiber. Dextrin can help lower cholesterol, maintain digestive regularity and support heart health. As far as adding it to soda, Suntory claims it blocks fat absorption. The Japanese government has a special label for products like these, Food for Specified Health Uses (FOHSU), which is used to designate products with health benefits. While the soda is not currently available in the United States, many are debating whether the message is right.

Drinking Smart, Drinking Safely
So you like energy drinks and soda -- what should you do? As with all types of food and drink, they're best consumed in moderation. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, like diabetes and heart disease, or if you're pregnant, it's always best to consult with your physician first. As a rule, limit intake of energy-boosting drinks and shots to one per day, assuming they're safe for you to take and well tolerated. With all of the health concerns surrounding soda, try to cut back to one or two cans per week at most. Look at these beverages more as a treat rather than a component of your overall meal.

When shopping, always look for products that have natural ingredients and pay attention to nutrition labels. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of caffeine is between 200 and 300 mg for an adult, which equals three to four cups of coffee. For sugar, it's about 24 g per day for women and 36 g for men, according to the American Heart Association. As for all those B vitamins they put into energy drinks? Unless you're diagnosed with a deficiency, they won't help or harm you -- they'll literally end up in the toilet (which explains your brightly colored urine).

Just like anything else you consume, choose your drinks carefully. While no official ruling has been made on the safety of these products as a whole, the effects of their ingredients are well documented, so pay attention to what you're sipping and how you feel.

Products you may like:

Pure Essence Labs Energy Plus  Pure Essence Labs Energy Plus 
Why you may like this product? Herbs are a great way to get more energy. This product from Pure Essence Labs contains a blend of herbs like eleuthero, astragalus and reishi mushroom that increase energy while also supporting tissue health and the immune system. If you're taking any medication, check with your doctor before adding herbal supplements to your routine.
VegLife Peaceful Planet Soy Protein Energy Shake African Vanilla VegLife Peaceful Planet Soy Protein Energy Shake African Vanilla
Why you may like this product? Get your energy and your protein in one place with this healthy shake mix. Available in unflavored as well as three delicious varieties, this soy protein shake provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes to keep you energized and satiated throughout your day.
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