From February to April, the High Plains Fitness Center at Front Range Community College-Westminster and Amber Kavehkar, Fitness Center Coordinator, encouraged students to explore healthy eating habits through the Eat Clean Challenge. The challenge mandated that participants avoid processed meat, added and artificial sweeteners, refined flours and dairy products.
Since the Eat Clean Challenge wrapped on April 1, students who followed its suggestions may turn back to processed foods. Furthermore, with finals approaching and the semester winding down, college students tend to seek vitality from energy drinks, such as Red Bull, Monster or Rockstar. In reality, the caffeine and added sugars in these drinks contribute to high blood pressure and heart problems.
While energy drinks keep consumers alert through quick and large doses of caffeine, the immediately increase blood pressure. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Consumption of the energy drink elicited a 6.2 percent increase in systolic blood pressure vs a 3.1 percent increase with the placebo drink. Diastolic blood pressure increased by 6.8 percent vs 0 percent with placebo. Mean blood pressure increased after consumption of the energy drink by 6.4 percent vs by 1.0 percent with the placebo drink.” People who consistently experience high blood pressure have much greater risks of heart disease and strokes long-term than those with moderate blood pressure.
Moreover, the average energy drink contains as much caffeine as five cups of coffee. Plus, other stimulants, such as guarana, ephedra and ma huang further increase one’s heart rate, leading to anxiety, nervousness and dehydration, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Some energy drinks contain sugar as a sweetener, and others rely on zero-calorie artificial sweeteners, like sucralose and aspartame. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of six tablespoons of added sugar per day for women and nine tablespoons per day for men. By reading the nutrition labels on energy drinks with added sugar, one can contains approximately 15 tablespoons of added sugar. Too much processed sugar leads to diabetes, weight gain and bodily stress.
Artificial sweeteners, while significantly lower in calories, are chemically derived, putting equal, if not more stress on one’s body than excess sugar. In fact, researchers at The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that sucralose and aspartame significantly increased the number of cancerous tumors in mice.
Even though energy drinks are labeled and sold as supplemental health drinks, their toxic ingredients lead to more detrimental, long-term ailments in consumers than a quick, pick-me-up is good for. Instead of energy drinks, less damaging options include small doses of tea and coffee for caffeine or fruit and vegetable juice for energy from natural carbohydrates.
Just because FRCC’s Eat Clean Challenge ended, does not mean that students should readopt their bad eating habits. Health often means rethinking certain foods and drinks, and swapping them for those that do bodies well.
Written by Kayla Klein
Graphics from My Health News Daily and Huffington Post