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June 6, 2013

Prof: Put energy drinks to rest during summer's heat

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — People consuming energy drinks as a cool way to beat the summer heat need to be aware of serving sizes, stimulant ingredients and possible medication interactions before increasing the amount they drink, says a Purdue University expert.

"Beverage consumption is likely to increase during the hot weather, and there are risks to drinking products with high levels of caffeine or dietary supplements that are stimulants, especially when dehydration can be an issue," said Janet R. Thorlton, an assistant professor of nursing who studies dietary supplements. "In general, people underestimate how much fluid loss they experience on a hot day, and for those working in the heat, energy drinks, may not be the best option."

Here are some tips from Thorlton regarding energy drinks:

* Take note of the ingredients. For example, taurine, a common booster in energy drinks, can potentiate the effects of caffeine.

* Confirm the serving size. Some cans are really two servings.

* Check with a pharmacist regarding possible interactions between prescription medicines and energy drink ingredients. Some asthma and attention deficit disorder medications contain stimulants, which can enhance the effects of an energy drink. Some unsafe adverse effects are agitation, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and insomnia.

* Mixing energy drinks with alcohol can increase dehydration risk.

* Stay hydrated with water or a sports drink that replaces electrolytes, sugars and salts.

"There is a difference between sports drinks and energy drinks, and while they may sit on store shelves side by side, they are regulated differently," Thorlton says. "There is more awareness in athletic communities, and many coaches educate their players about the best way to hydrate during practices in hot weather. However, there are a number of people working outside in construction and yard maintenance who may not have this information. Energy drinks also are growing in popularity for people in the service, young parents and students." 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Janet R. Thorlton, 765-494-4030, jthorlto@purdue.edu 

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College of Health and Human Sciences