Are “Energy” Drinks Just a Load of Bull?


Energy drinks appeared on the market in 1997.  They have since gained tremendous popularity in providing energy when fatigue sets in.  Companies have marketed toward young adults with fantastic results, but do these drinks really deliver on their promise?  A recent study at Northern Kentucky University finds that they do indeed deliver on their promise, just watch your intake.

The authors of the study administered a popular energy drink, Red Bull, to 80 adults between the ages of 18 and 40.  The participants were randomly placed in one of five groups; no beverage, placebo, 1.8ml/kg Red Bull, 3.6ml/kg Red Bull, and 5.4 ml/kg Red Bull.  They were asked to perform a test of cued response-time tasks using a computer game before consumption of their beverage and 30 minutes after, as well as rate their level of mental fatigue.  The study found that Red Bull does in fact decrease response time to a cued task, but is indeed dose dependant.  The lowest dose of Red Bull actually had the best response time suggesting that more is not always better.  Also, participants reported feeling less mentally fatigued after consumption. The study also found that Red Bull had no effect on response inhibition.

It appears that energy drinks, or at least Red Bull do help with decreasing one’s reaction time, but the need for multiple drinks in a day is not actually necessary as a higher dose did not improve reaction times.  Also, as predicted by the study, participants felt less mentally fatigued.  This subjective measure is exactly what the energy drink companies are hoping for, and marking toward, with billion dollar results.  Please remember that the FDA does not regulate the amount of caffeine put in these products and further studies on the effects of these drinks are still needed.


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