Energy drinks are loaded with sugar and caffeine, making them a beloved beverage of military members who often work long hours with very little sleep. But the Department of Defense (DoD) is warning those who serve that the drinks could do “some serious harm to your body.”
The Pentagon posted a blog on its official site this week detailing the health risks associated with energy drink consumption. The entry cites a report that found soldiers on the field were more likely to fall asleep on duty if they consumed multiple energy drinks per day.
The study by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research looked at data from more than 1,000 soldiers and Marines conducting operations in Afghanistan in 2010. It found that nearly 45% of deployed military personnel drank at least 1 energy beverage a day, and nearly 14% consumed 3 or more a day.
The report states:
“These products generally are unregulated and can have negative side effects. Those who drank three or more drinks a day also were more likely to report sleep disruption related to stress and illness and were more likely to fall asleep during briefings or on guard duty.”
The military provides eye-opening products like instant coffee and caffeine-infused chewing gum in its military rations to try and keep soldiers awake on the field. In recent years, energy drinks have become extremely popular among soldiers, many forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan maintain large stocks of the beverages.
One particular brand, Rip It, actively supports military groups like the USO and boasts of its military connections in its online marketing, stating that its product “has been tested on the battlefield and is a favorite of our troops.
Dr. Patricia Duester, the director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, says military service members shouldn’t consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine every 4 hours. Female members should consume even less.
Eight-ounce servings of Monster Energy and Red Bull contain about 80 milligrams of caffeine, while Rip It contains about 100 milligrams. All of the beverages contain about 25 grams of sugar – an entire day’s recommended sugar for women and about 2/3 the recommended daily amount for men.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “heavy use” of caffeine (500-600 milligrams a day) can cause fast heartbeat, nervousness, insomnia (leading to more caffeine use and worsening insomnia). Sugar, of course, can cause weight gain.
Duester said she is also concerned about popular energy drink ingredients like taurine. Not much is known about the long-term health effects of taurine, or energy drinks in general.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.