The US military is warning army members about the dangers of over-consuming energy drinks. A recent study by Walter Reed Army Institute of Research titled – “Energy drink consumption and its association with sleep problems among US service members on a combat deployment” analyzed data from over 1000 marines conducting operations in Afghanistan in 2010. In light of the above study, the US military health officials are warning service members about the harmful side effects of consuming excessive amounts of energy drinks.

Energy drinks – small containers that promise increased energy and performance – were increasingly being preferred over water during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study found that nearly 45% of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily, with 14% reporting three or more every single day.

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Excessive caffeine

One of the primary reasons energy drinks aren’t good for health is that they are loaded with caffeine. Service members are required to avoid consuming more than 200mg of caffeine every four hours. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, advises – “If it’s got more than 200 milligrams of caffeine, don’t use it”.

Effects of Taurine unknown

Taurine is a chemical compound (amino acid) found in animal tissue. Energy drink companies claim that this ingredient enhances mental and physical performance. But the long term effects of taurine are not yet known. “Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses. I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long-term effects question”, adds Deuster.

Effects of energy drinks on sleep

Excessive consumption of energy drinks can lead to a harmful cycle, eventually leading to sleep problems and degraded performance. According to Nancy J Wesensten, Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least six hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it”. Those who intake three or more energy drinks per day are more likely sleep less than four hours per night.

Excessive sugar content

Energy drinks are not free of sugar – in fact, they are loaded with sugar with as much as 27grams of sugar in some cans. This is two-thirds of the recommended daily maximum intake for men and in fact 2 grams more for women. The extra sugar, when soldiers consume more than two energy drinks, can cause blood sugar levels to increase.

Considering the adverse effects of excessive consumption of energy drinks, the US Defense has advised, in fact, “warned” soldiers and marines to refrain from consuming energy drinks in excess quantities. The cut down on intake cannot happen overnight; soldiers and marines may have to gradually reduce the consumption of energy drinks and instead rely on other healthy sources for energy.


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