A paddling pool full of energy drinks.
Not exactly what I expected to encounter in my first month of college, but at Young Life’s annual Dogtown Dance Party, that’s what I found. Since college students are educated about the dangers of alcohol, most students are prepared to deal with it. But the same cannot be said for energy drinks.
The multitude of energy drinks in this baby pool got everyone involved excited, including a friend of mine. After consuming four Celsius energy drinks, he was on top of the world. It was laughable, but not for long. According to the Celsius nutrition label, there are 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine in one degree Celsius, which means he consumed 800 mg of caffeine in a short time, causing a sleepless night and chest pain for days. .
Energy drinks are just as common as alcohol on college campuses, but students don’t know much about them. This lack of knowledge is very different from alcohol, as students must complete comprehensive alcohol education modules when they come to JMU.
Both of these substances are popular but dangerous, so students’ knowledge of them should be equal.
Katie Barrett, a freshman at JMU, said she could see the gap in her own knowledge between the two.
Barrett said the alcohol safety modules she took were very important and not everyone took them seriously, but they were important.
“I really wanted to know what a standard drink is,” Barrett said. “It’s a good thing to know [going] to college.
Barrett regularly consumes energy drinks, but said she doesn’t know much about it.
“I have no idea how much caffeine it contains,” Barrett said of her go-to energy drink, Red Bull. Although Barrett knows energy drinks are unhealthy, she said she and many other students don’t know how they affect the body.
According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), the average energy drink is 16 ounces with 170 mg of caffeineand the Cleveland Clinic advises adults to limit caffeine intake to 400 mg of caffeine per day. This makes it easy for students to consume an unhealthy amount of caffeine, especially when faced with the exhaustion that comes with a college workload.
Compare that to coffee, which contains 80 to 100 mg of caffeine in an average eight-ounce cup, according to the FDA. This is vastly different from energy drinks and is closer to 135mg of caffeine – the amount that HSPH recognizes as the average amount of caffeine that adults drink in a day. When students need caffeine, they should know that coffee is a much safer option than energy drinks.
HSPH states that drinking too much caffeine in a day can cause heart problems, such as high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. Extreme cases can lead to seizures or cardiac arrest.
There are also longer-term health issues associated with energy drinks. Especially among young people, energy drinks are linked to negative effects on mental, cardiovascular and kidney health.
“I definitely got heartburn from them,” Barrett said. “I know it can mess with your heartbeat because you’re consuming a lot of caffeine.”
JMU does not provide any information to students about energy drinks – not even those available at many college vending machines. Barrett said there should be educational modules on energy drinks in addition to those on alcohol.
Information on energy drinks can be found in resources such as FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Before drinking an energy drink, students should check the nutrition facts label to see how much caffeine they are consuming.
It’s surprising how little students know about the dangers of energy drinks, especially given their popularity with young adults and the ease of access students have on campus – energy drinks can be found in JMU vending machines, campus markets or any number of stores in the area.
The negative health effects associated with energy drinks highlight how important it is for students to educate themselves about what they are putting into their bodies. College students should have the same amount of knowledge about energy drinks as they do about alcohol, whether or not JMU provides this education.
Mary Mabry is a first-year communications student. Contact Mary at [email protected]. For more editorials regarding the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the Opinion Bureau on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Opinion.