Energy Drinks More Dangerous than Efficient
Red Bull and RockStar energy drinks are among the three top selling drinks on campus
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Red Bull and RockStar energy drinks are some of the most popular drinks on SF State’s campus. They are among the top three selling drinks at campus convenience stores. Red Bull outsells Classic Coke by nearly twice as many units per week, and Coke barely beats out RockStar for second place.

Students say that they mostly buy the energy drinks right before class in order to stay awake and alert, but some campus health officials say that in the long run, the drinks can wear students out more than help them out.

“I have about eight Red Bulls a week,” said senior marketing major Paul Grass. “I drink one right before school or work and then I’m ready to go.”

Katie Webb, 18, said that she drinks at least seven RockStars a week.

“I usually drink them before class because they help me stay awake,” said Webb. “I find them more convenient and better tasting than the coffees on campus.”

SF State nutritionist Teresa Leu said the reason why Red Bull and RockStar provide energy is due to the high amounts of sugar and caffeine in them.

“A Red Bull has about 80 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per eight-ounce serving,” explained Leu, “and on top of that it has 27mg of sugar. That’s like putting seven teaspoons of sugar in an eight-ounce cup of coffee. That’s why students feel like it gives them energy, but unfortunately it’s not long-term energy.”

Junior psychology major Natalie Lobue admitted that a couple of years ago she was addicted to RockStars. She started drinking two a day because she would crash a couple of hours after drinking the first one.

“What was happening to her is that her energy was going way up and then it would come way down,” explained health educator Albert Angelo. “The caffeine makes you alert because it stimulates the brain and the sugar enters your blood stream quickly and so you get a burst of energy that can last from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours. Once (students) come down they may want to drink another one and that can lead to addiction.”

Other than caffeine and different forms of sugar like sucrose, glucose and glucuronolactone, Red Bull contains ingredients such as taurine, an amino acid found in bull testicles and in some fish, and various other B-complex vitamins.

According to Leu, adding the B-vitamins to the drink “is more of a marketing tool used to impart a healthy impression of the product.”

With RockStar’s 16-ounce cans, consumers get twice the amount of sugar and caffeine. One of the things RockStar has that Red Bull does not is guarana, an additional form of caffeine derived from berries. Another thing that a can of RockStar includes but Red Bull lacks is a warning, in very fine print, stating that the drink is "Not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those
sensitive to caffeine."

Leu explained that although nutritionists do not yet know the exact long-term health issues associated with energy drinks, she does know that they can cause jitteriness, anxiety, high blood sugar levels and if they are mixed with alcohol the combination of a heavy stimulant and a depressant can lead to heart failure.

Kara Maskew, a Red Bull North America spokeswoman said, “Red Bull energy drink is a safe consumer product that can be consumed when you are in need of energy. We are confident in the safety of Red Bull, as nearly two billion cans were safely consumed worldwide last year. In addition, there has never been a link between Red Bull and any health issue. So pop open a cold one for your own set of wings.”

Instead of popping a cold one, Leu suggests that students should get their wings through different means.

“You are better off eating a large apple or string cheese,” she said. “It will give you energy for a longer period of time because of the natural sugars and proteins that they contain.”

Angelo said that even though energy drinks are not the best thing for you, anything, no matter what it is, is all about moderation and that having a couple Red Bulls or RockStars a week is not that big of a concern.

“If your diet revolves around such drinks, then that’s a different story,” said Angelo.

So if students want to make sure that after having an energy drink, the wings that they are supposed to get don’t fly them only half way through class or that their rock star vigor won't wear off thirty minutes into their set, the key is moderation. Of course there is always the option of buying dozens of cases of apples or huge packages of string cheese.

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PHOTO
Travis Murray | staff photographer
Katie Webb, a communications major, holds out her drink of choice, which is "Rockstar."

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