Caffeine, taurine and sugar – energy drinks are popular pick-me-ups – why? – Knowledge


Since the beginning of 2024, energy drinks have no longer been sold to children in Poland. That doesn’t change the hype surrounding the sweet “kick” from the can: Redbull alone sells more than eleven billion of its drinks worldwide every year. But do the alleged energy boosters deliver what they promise?

In Switzerland there is currently no minimum age for buying energy drinks. Adolescents are particularly receptive to advertising about the supposed pick-me-ups. Higher, further, faster – energy drinks promise, sip by sip, more performance and success in all situations. The ingredients caffeine, taurine and sugar are said to have magical powers.

Taurine – myth and truth

At the beginning of the 1990s, Redbull, for example, was only traded illegally. The authorities feared that the previously unknown taurine came from ox bile and was harmful.

In reality, it is an amino acid that is also found in the human body. And the taurine used in energy drinks is not of animal origin, but is produced synthetically. One thing is clear: taurine, caffeine and sugar are harmless on their own and in small amounts.

Magic power in a can?

To date, it has not been proven that the interaction of taurine, sugar and caffeine increases performance. Only caffeine has a stimulating effect. However, if consumed excessively, there is a risk of heart problems.

Healthy adults consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, about four cups of coffee, without risk – with the exception of pregnant women. In Switzerland, no more than 160 milligrams of caffeine is permitted per half liter of energy drink.

When sweet and sour make you sick

A 355 milliliter energy drink contains around twelve sugar cubes. Nutritionist Christine Brombach therefore warns of a vicious circle when consuming energy drinks to improve performance. The body reacts actively to the intake of sugar. But as soon as the blood sugar level drops again, you feel weak and try to compensate for this condition again with a sugary drink. The constant ups and downs are harmful to the organism.

Energy drinks are also dangerous for the teeth of adolescents. Children and tooth decay from sugary drinks is a well-known evil. Energy drinks are even worse because their high acid content leads to erosion of tooth enamel and loss of tooth structure. And compared to other sweet drinks, saliva takes longer to neutralize the acidic effects of energy drinks.

Energy drinks with alcohol – a door opener to addiction?

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol is popular among young people. “Sucht Schweiz” therefore warns that this increases possible addictive behavior. Nicolas, 48, has been addicted to drugs since he was a teenager, but has been clean for 15 years. He sees energy drinks as a door opener to his addiction: “A 13-year-old wouldn’t come up with the idea of ​​just drinking vodka. It works with energy drinks.”

The caffeine allowed him to drink large amounts of alcohol. It was like training for more and more consumption. And an incentive to try other substances too.

The pharmacopsychologist Boris Quednow suspects that the early learning experience as a child or teenager – including the consumption of energy drinks – certainly promotes later use, including with other substances. You then have the feeling that all everyday problems can be regulated and solved with a substance.

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