Missing energy ingredient? Knowledge

A panel of brain scientists and other wise people gathered at The Use and Biology of Energy Drinks conference last week and agreed much more research is needed.

Researchers seemed as perplexed as someone who's come out from under a Folger's rock to stand baffled before a Starbucks drink menu last week at The Use and Biology of Energy Drinks: Current Knowledge and Critical Gaps conference. The meeting, held at the Neuroscience Center Building in Rockville, Md., gathered scientists hoping to determine the extent of research into energy drinks, reports bevnet.com.

Panelists pondered our shallow understanding of caffeine as well as the even less studied additives in the drinks that fuel the $15 billion dollar energy drink market. “The question is, what happens if you have dose after dose after dose?” asked keynote speaker David Dinges, Ph.D., a professor and chief of the sleep and chronobiology division at the University of Pennsylvania.

That is, if you can even figure out what constitutes a dose. Emma L. Childs said she had a hard time simply finding the caffeine content of widely consumed energy drinks. And she has a Ph.D. The panel, reports bevnet.com, had more questions than answers. The common sentiment was that more research is needed. They’re not exactly sure of the appropriate dose size, what settings encourage energy drink use and when consumers should stop consuming energy drinks, among other research gaps. 

The lack of knowledge about these products hasn't decreased the demand for them, or caffeine on its own. More than 85 percent of people worldwide consume caffeine every day. “A common belief is that a natural compound is safe,” says Jag Khalsa, Ph.D., the chief of the medical consequences branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He then mentioned another natural compound: cocaine.

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