Is there a healthy energy drink?
Written by William Rusnak
It’s 10:00am and you’re already slouching in your chair, dragging your feet between destinations, and can’t seem to focus on anything that anyone is saying. That small cup of coffee just isn’t going to cut it today. Staring at the fierce designs of the many energy drinks available to you, your heart is already racing at the thought of chugging down one of these miracle-workers. So which will it be?
There is an obscene variety of energy drinks on today’s market, which seemed to explode during the past decade. Choosing one may prove to be somewhat difficult, especially during those tired mornings.
Here are some things to consider:
Let us first state the obvious by saying that refined sugar is terrible for you. It is a simple carbohydrate, which is the “easiest” form of fuel for the body. Eating it increases the sugar concentration in your blood (blood glucose) and discourages your body from using its natural mechanisms to maintain blood glucose (using stored sugar within liver and muscles or forcing the liver to construct sugar from proteins), thus resulting in your body using the “easy” sugars and storing anything left over as fat (weight gain). Did I mention decreased insulin sensitivity (lea ding to diabetes), absence of vitamins and minerals, increased triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood, and of course, tooth decay?
Generally sugar substitutes are synthetic, though some are naturally derived. They have been found be a great alternative to traditional refined sugar. They don’t increase your blood glucose levels, thus they help a person to avoid the negative effects attributed to sugar ingestion. Although there has been some concern about saccharin, an artificial sweetener, being linked to cancer in rats within a study during 1970, the National Cancer Institute has found no scientific evidence that supports the claim that any artificial sweeteners sold in the U.S. cause cancer.
Don’t let anyone fool you. Caffeine is reason you get any energy from an energy drink. Unless you have a diet absent of any vitamins and minerals, the other substances in energy drinks likely have a miniscule effect on energy levels.
Being the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, caffeine is praised by many cultures. Aside from experiencing the obvious benefits of alertness, focus, and increased energy, drinkers of coffee also have been found to experience lower rates of liver, colon, and skin cancer, have a lower risk of gallstones, and be less likely to develop Parkinson disease. Some research has also suggested that drinking coffee regularly can decrease the incidence of Alzheimer disease, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. Notice, however, that all the observed benefits within these studies have been attributed to drinking coffee. That said, there are hundreds of ingredients in coffee, including antioxidants, so it would not be logical to apply all of these benefits to caffeine alone. Therefore, energy drinks and soft drinks may only be providing a fraction of the healthy perks that come from drinking natural drinks like coffees or teas.
Caffeine also has some obvious side-effects. Depending on the individual, consuming high levels of caffeine, somewhere above 300mg in a given day, can cause insomnia, nervousness, restless, irritability, nausea, fast or irregular heartbeat, muscle tremors, headaches, and even panic attacks. Furthermore, there have been reports of caffeine toxicity among adolescents in several countries. Obviously with many energy drinks containing 150mg of caffeine or more, it wouldn’t take more than consuming a few drinks to reach toxic levels. It also doesn’t help that energy drink advertisements generally appeal to adolescents, who are much more likely to abuse the drinks.
Is there a healthy energy drink? Considering the above information, the answer is: probably not. Coffees and teas definitely seem to be healthier with their naturalness and scientifically-proven benefits on health.
However, if you are going to choose an energy drink, it would be reasonable to choose one without sugar and to keep your intake to a reasonable amount, ingesting less than 300mg of caffeine a day.
About the Author
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”