The science of energy

The market for high sugar and high caffeine beverages that claim to give Energizer bunny-like vitality is rapidly increasing. From Red Bull to AMP to Monster Energy to Bliss, energy drink sales have increased by 75 percent since 2000, according to The effectiveness and safety of the beverages are still up in the air.

Nearly 2 billion cans of Red Bull energy drink were sold in 2004, Red Bull company representatives said.

Red Bull’s Web site,, does not touch on the nutritional values of the drink’s sugar content, but it does tell consumers how Red Bull will improve performance, concentration, reaction speed, vigilance, emotional status and metabolism.

The nutritional facts on the back of a can of Red Bull tell the whole story: 110 calories, 80 milligrams of caffeine, 21.5 grams of sucrose and 5.25 grams of glucose with a total of 26.75 grams of sugar in just 8.3 ounces.

The numbers for AMP energy drink, one of Red Bull’s direct competitors, is 80 milligrams of caffeine and 29 grams of sugar for the same 8 ounces. In comparison, Coca-Cola has nearly 39 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can.

Several side effects can result from consuming high amounts of caffeine, said Dr. Stephen Permut, the department chairperson of Temple Medical School. The effects include increased heart rate, insomnia and facial flushing. While mild, these effects shouldn’t be ignored.

The amount of sugar in energy drinks is noteworthy, because a sugar-filled diet contributes to obesity and potentially diabetes, Permut said.

B group vitamins present in many energy drinks aid the release of energy from food, but a well-balanced diet should provide enough B group vitamins.

“However, it seems that [B group vitamins] in fruits and vegetables can be more healthy,” Permut said.

B group vitamins also shorten the time it takes for energy drinks to take effect. Amino acids such as taurine are present in drinks like Red Bull to “aid muscle contraction and growth,” Permut said.

Freshman film major Daou Hiecke said, “I’ll drink [energy drinks], but it’s quite expensive to have it all the time.” Besides cost, freshman broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media major Joe Littman said the various energy beverages all have the same taste.

“It just doesn’t taste good,” Littman said, adding that coffee is the better tasting choice for a quick jolt.

Tom Hinkle can be reached at

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