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Ephedrine, Caffine Spark Energy Controversy

Oct 9, 2002 | NinerOnline.com With college students on the constant move, the need for extended energy is practically required. Many are finding energy replacing beverages and vitamins containing ephedrine or caffeine as an easy fix for fatigue.

Fast-paced college lives do not tend to allow much time for proper daily exercise. Those in constant search for answers to weight-control issues are quick to reach out for supplements that promise loss of body fat.

However, studies are showing that companies fail to inform buyers of possible harmful health risks relating to the ingredients found in the products. Many popular energy drinks only advertise the positive effects while keeping consumers in the dark about the many extra additives used to create the energy boost that the products cause.

Ephedrine is derived from the plant Ephedra equisentina. Its claims promise improved athletic performance and concentration as well as increased fat loss. However, the ingredient may cause breathing difficulties, irregular heart rate, elevated blood pressure, dizziness, headaches, stroke, seizure, psychosis and even death. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has documented 40 deaths and over 800 side effects relating to ephedrine.

Ripped Fuel and Xenadrine are popular energy supplements that trigger weight loss, but contain ephedrine. Warning labels clearly state that use of the product may cause serious adverse health effects. Hydroxycut, also a metabolic enhancer, has been found to cause nose bleeds and severe acne.

Some 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine daily. It has been found to be an addictive drug that can produce extreme withdrawal symptoms. Sodas and energy drinks tend to contain large amounts of caffeine to get consumers hooked in order to increase beverage sales.

Red Bull is one of the most popular energy drinks for students. Its mission persuades consumption by allowing college kids to believe that the drink will aid in finishing time-sensitive projects and term papers.

Red Bull provides the body with essential ingredients such as taurine and glucuronolatctone that play key roles in the drink's effects. The product also mentions the use of caffeine as a stimulant, but says its contents are similar to that of a cup of filtered coffee.

According to a news article in The Talon, a Murrieta Valley High School publication, studies show the Red Bull uses an extract from Guarna seed, which is found to contain twice as much caffeine as a coffee bean.

Reports show that the essential additives in energy drinks only produce minimal effects on energy whereas caffeine and sugar is what 'packs the true punch.' Large amounts of caffeine consumed increases chances of dehydration, nervousness and insomnia.

Many teens regard energy drinks like Red Bull as an alternative to drugs and alcohol, and have consumed more in 2001 than in recent years. The Talon was quoted as saying "it's like the official drink of the designated driver."

The International Olympics Committee considers caffeine as a controlled substance and disqualifies athletes that test high levels in their urine. The NCAA has banned ephedrine products and enforces punishment upon those who do not comply.

Students are warned of the dangers caused by ephedrine and caffeine and if consumed, are asked to abide by the directions posted on the products. Students are also asked to not combine the two ingredients as effects may become more severe.

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