Opinion » Antidote

Popeye's New Can Isn't Spinach

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My fifteen-year-old son insists on having an energy drink after his breakfast every morning. If I run out, he picks one up on his way to school. Truthfully, he acts just like I do when I don't have coffee in the morning. Are these drinks any worse for him than my coffee?

-Michael

Since I'm the go-to-guy for Starbucks marketing advice, I'm planning to suggest offering new brews with the names PimpJuice au Lait and Monster Assault Macchiato. I've no doubt it would help the transition from adolescent experimentation to full-scale adult caffeine addiction. Speaking as one so addicted, the only drawback I see to my daily pot of espresso is having to erase all the exclamation points after every first draft.

The dozens of new energy drinks available contain a very similar inventory of components hidden within eye-catching ingredient names like Glucuronolactone and Guarana. The elements of most of these functional beverages are simply sugar, amino acids, vitamins, herbs and caffeine. Caffeine content varies, but most contain about as much as a cup of coffee and about twice the amount in tea or cola. During what can best be described as a year-round spring break, aggressive marketers make claims of significant increases in performance, concentration and even improved emotional state (assuring a Nobel prize in teenage medication).

The drug caffeine itself, in moderation, is proven safe in most adults and is recognized to improve both mental and physical performance. That being said, sensitive types would surely disagree and wag a trembling finger in my direction. For children, it's not so simple. Few kids would consider drinking a pot of strong coffee before a junior high assembly, but might down four or five energy drinks in an afternoon while playing Xbox. Sleep-deprived already (thank you Instant Messenger), interruption of what few hours of rest that remain is likely to follow. This makes it a much larger concern for younger children.

Mixing these drinks with alcohol is currently in fashion, and the combination is about as inspired as any movie starring Ben Affleck. As anyone who has ever had a beer can tell you, alcohol makes you urinate. And the rest of you who have had coffee can attest to the same thing. Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and the combination of the two can dehydrate a person quite fast, especially during physical activity like dancing (or fleeing from a matinee of Gigli), and that makes the combo dangerous.

Dr. Ed Rabin is a chiropractor at Life Chiropractic Center. Send questions to theantidote@edrabin.com (www.edrabin.com).