Marketed as an “energy supplement” promising “twice the buzz of a regular energy drink,” Monster Energy’s ingredient list resembles a science project; however, the majority of its contents consists of carbonated water, sugar and caffeine. Several studies suggest that the risk of using energy drinks may outweigh any benefits. Additionally, some ingredients may lead to serious health problems such as caffeine overdose and alcohol dependence.
Not just a spoonful of sugar here; the 16 oz. size Monster Energy packs a punch with nearly 14 tsp., or 54 g, of sugar, resulting in 200 calories per can. Sugar is included as an ingredient in the “Energy Blend” section of the nutrition label in the form of glucose and maltodextrin. Not only is Monster Energy loaded with sugar, it contains the artificial sweetener sucralose, which is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
An August 2010 EurekAlert states that researchers note that caffeine is responsible for “most of the performance-enhancing effects” of energy drinks. Labeled as a supplement, energy drinks fall under the “gray area” of regulation, permitting them to exceed caffeine limitations imposed on other drinks. Soft drinks are limited to 71 mg of caffeine per 12 oz drink, whereas energy drinks may contain up to 505 mg in one can -- equaling 14 cans of some colas. Excessive caffeine can lead to heart arrhythmia, osteoporosis and pregnancy problems. Children have a higher risk of caffeine overdose due to smaller body size. According to Medline Plus, in 2007, caffeine overdoses in the United States totaled 5,448 -- half of which were children under age 19.
The amounts of B vitamins, L-carnitine, taurine, ginseng and guarana, in Monster Energy may not be enough to be significant. A study published in May 2008 in the “Journal of the American Pharmacist Association” reports the amounts of these supplements in energy drinks are too small to provide any health benefit. B vitamins, which help convert food into energy, are obtained through a balanced diet -- without the added sugar and caffeine. Additionally, no evidence currently links L-carnitine, a non-essential amino acid, to enhanced performance. Taurine is suggested to increase mental performance, but an article published in 2008 in the German psychiatric journal, “Tijdschrift Voor Psychiatrie” reports that a multi-study analysis revealed that energy drinks do increase performance, reaction and memory, but due to caffeine, not taurine.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
America’s youth are mixing drinks, like Monster Energy, with alcohol creating a dangerous elixir. Combining the stimulant effect of caffeine and the depressant effect of alcohol causes drinkers to underestimate their levels of intoxication,” according to a June 2008 study published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health.” The study indicates that energy drink use in general is associated with risky behaviors such as sex, smoking, marijuana and illicit drug use, especially among whites.