Liquid hazard

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In 2006, the number of energy drink cans sold all over India was estimated at approximately 20 million. Sales for these drinks have been propelled the world over by those in the 12-24 age group category. In the US alone, energy drinks account for a $3 billion market.

But while they provide an instant kick, energy drinks have long been in the news for being correlated with a number of health problems. The combination of high caffeine, high sugar content poses health risks for teens, which are only now being fully documented. In India, until now, energy drinks aren’t as widely popular as in the West, primarily due to their high cost. “One can of an energy drink costs about Rs. 75 — that’s an amount I just can’t afford to shell out. So I just have a cola usually. I may have an energy drink maybe once in three months,” says 17-year-old Sukanya K.C.

“I’ve been to a few parties where energy drinks were served. But no one in my group is hooked on to them,” seconds collegian Pallavi Sinha, adding, “My older sister has them more frequently.”

Most teens in the country may not face any immediate health risks simply because their consumption is very irregular. Indeed, “Most of the adverse effects of energy drinks come about when there is an excessive intake,” says Dr. Indira Nair, a pediatrician. “You aren’t supposed to have more than half a can per day. And preferably, you shouldn’t have packaged or aerated drinks at all. Why not go in for fresh fruit juices?”

The recent case of a 15-year-old in the US, who was admitted to a hospital after showing symptoms similar to a heart attack, has brought the issue into focus once again.

When doctors examined Cody Wilcox, they were initially puzzled — but finally traced the cause to the several cans of an energy drink Cody had been drinking over the past couple of days. The doctors issued Cody a stern warning: “Stop drinking these. If you don’t, you’ll be dead by the time you are 26.”

Indian teens certainly aren’t in the danger zone where energy drinks are concerned at present. But as Cody Wilcox would attest, “better safe, than sorry.”

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