Canada Now Regulating Energy Drinks: Should U.S. Do the Same?
By Jillian Petrus, Reporter
LINN COUNTY, Iowa - An energy drink in Canada now can’t have more than 180 milligrams of caffeine roughly equal to a medium cup of coffee. Stricter regulations are something health officials here in the U.S. have also been contemplating. Canada now classifies energy drinks as foods rather than natural health products. This allows Canadian health officials to regulate the popular beverages. The new restriction will force the energy drinks to carry labels listing their ingredients, allergens and nutrition information. They also have to state that the product it is not recommended for children, pregnant women, or to be mixed with alcohol.
Now the question is will U.S. health officials follow suit? Right now, most energy drinks you buy at a local grocery store or a gas station are considered a “dietary supplement”, therefore, unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
“A lot of them are going to have extra calories, sugar those things you don’t really need,” said Sarah Young, a licensed dietitian with Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.
In fact, Young says many of the drinks contain additives like Taurine, Guarana, and Yerba Mate. The dietitian says it’s hard to know what benefits, if any, these provide or the impact each may have on various people with different health backgrounds.
There is also the added concern these highly caffeinated drinks, some containing three times the amount of caffeine in a can of soda, can speed up your heart rate, cause nausea and excess sweating.
Brent Shillington of Lisbon says he’s tried a few of the drinks before and has experienced those symptoms. “I don’t like them,” Shillington said, “I’ve had headaches, don’t feel very good, and nausea.”
We did find several people who like the energy drinks, but many say they don’t think the drinks are healthy. “No, they’re not healthy at all!” laughed Andrew Fouch, a Cedar Rapids dad who says he enjoys the caffeine boost he gets from the drinks. “I have a kid, so I get drained and need a pick-me-up,” Fouch said.
And what about those morning workouts? Some of the drinks advertised on television as a natural energy kick for your workout. Young says she’s skeptical they have any positive effect. “You don’t know if it’s going to benefit your workout or not,” she said. “There hasn’t been enough research to prove it benefits workouts.”
We checked the Food and Drug Administration’s current requirements for a product marketed as a dietary supplement. For the most part, these products just have to make sure the product label is truthful and not misleading in anyway. Multiple groups have lobbied the FDA in recent years to regulate the energy drinks.
There are now long term studies happening throughout the US to determine possible health impact from these drinks. “We encourage trying to be more aware of what you’re drinking,” says Young, “with those beverages, I don’t feel there’s enough regulation to know what you are drinking.”
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