The Ugly Side of Energy Drinks

Wale Oke
Wale Oke

Nigeria’s House of Representatives probes how energy drinks come into the country and the health hazards associated with their consumption

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Apr. 15, 2013 @01:00 GMT

TO ALL lovers of caffeinated drinks, fondly called ‘energy drinks’, it appears the time is up for total abstinence from the drinks. The House probe of the drinks followed the serious health hazards their consumption poses to human health. Against this background, the House of Representatives has directed its committees on Health and Commerce to investigate the importation, distribution and sales of the drinks as well as the health implications of their consumption in Nigeria.

Energy Drinks
Energy Drinks

Yaccob Adebiosu, a member of the committee, who raised the motion, said energy drinks containing caffeine, sugar, high fructose, corn syrup, herbs and other substances are now found on campuses, bars, dance clubs and social functions across the country. “Energy drinks such as Red Bull, Power Horse, Vault, Red Alert, Burn, among others, contain high levels of ingredients and stimulants that pose dangerous health risks such as kidney damages, seizures, strokes and life threatening effects on blood pressure, heart and brain functions. These drinks, when mixed with alcoholic drinks, become more deadly as they tend to mask the level of intoxication already settled in the bodies of the consumers of this mixture, thereby allowing young adults to consume much more alcohol than normal. This, often times, leads to the death of young people after such in-take and also an increase in road accidents involving such people,” he said.

The lawmaker listed Germany, Norway, France and Denmark among some of the countries that had banned the sale of the drinks within their territories as a result of health risks caused by the consumption of energy drinks, including reported cases of deaths.

Medical practitioners have also joined the National Assembly in calling on Nigerians to abstain from energy drinks. According to them, consumers of all caffeinated drinks stand the risk of over stimulating their hearts. Such stimulation leads to over activity and abnormal reading of the heart. Wale Oke, a medical practitioner, said the consumption of energy drinks can cause high blood pressure and such beverage should be treated as drugs.

According to Oke, energy drinks have been able to penetrate the Nigerian market and are being treated as beverages which is why it does not go through rigorous and extensive research by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC. “These drinks contain caffeine which can cause individuals with health challenges to become hypertensive. Consumption of the drinks can also increase blood pressure or cause abnormal heart rate,” Oke said, adding that non-sugar energy drinks have been directly linked with blood clot formations in the human body and have been banned by some European countries.

Yaccob Adebiosu
Yaccob Adebiosu

Abidemi Shabi, another medical practitioner, described energy drinks as a kind of caffeinated drinks and all caffeinated drinks are neuro stimulants. He said regular intake of such drinks could bring about caffeine toxicity in the body, thus affecting the neurological system that controls all parts of the human body.

He said the effect would, over time, be felt in almost all parts of the body and the most vulnerable part is the heart. That could easily lead to loss of life. “People who are addicted to such drinks are at risk of altering the body’s neuro system. Many of them love it because the high caffeine content helps to keep them awake for a long period as well as engage in activities for longer periods. But this could lead to insomnia. However, that actually depends on the body of an individual,” he said.

Reacting to the proposed ban, Abubakar Jimoh, director of public relations, NAFDAC, said that the agency’s position since 2008 had been that children, pregnant women and diabetics should avoid energy drinks. He said it is capable of raising their sugar level. “That is the caveat. We belong to the international community. Our role, among others, is to educate Nigerians. Yes, there may be health complications, but it is for some people. It is important to advise those who take it not to abuse it; whatever you abuse may harm you,” he said.

Lateef Oyelekan
Lateef Oyelekan

Meanwhile, the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees, NUFBTE, and the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association, FOBTOB, have thrown their weights behind the lawmakers, saying the move is a step in the right direction. According to Lateef Oyelekan, NUFBTE’s president, the union supports the planned ban on imported energy drinks to protect Nigerians from untimely death.

He said that beverage companies in the country were not involved in the production of energy drinks, and urged members of the House of Representatives to take steps to also ban imported beverages, spirits and wines for killing the local industries. Oyelekan explained that the most imported food drinks and beverages have a short life span and did not follow the requirements of NAFDAC or other regulatory agencies.

Taiwo Eromosele, a major dealer in energy drinks in Lagos Island, said she knew nothing about the health implication of energy drinks. However, she said that banning it would send a lot of people out of business. She said the business is very lucrative and that is why she has been a key distributor since 2009. “The market for the drinks is the youth population and they love its effects. You know youths mostly make up Nigeria’s population. So any product targeting the youth has a big market. I would not be able to tell you how much I make though, but the business is lucrative,” she said.

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