Wednesday 23 August 2017

Are you looking for a shortcut to healthy living? I won't drink to that

Monster energy drinks carry explicit labels warning of their 'high caffeine content' in Ireland.
Monster energy drinks carry explicit labels warning of their 'high caffeine content' in Ireland.

Liam Fay

Sports enthusiasts have an inordinate weakness for pop psychology. Ball fanatics of all kinds love to depict the playing field as a place of much higher learning, a school of hard knocks and robust challenges where complex life lessons are imparted through physical exertion rather than mental application.

Curiously, however, sporting wisdom is most commonly retailed in short, sharp shots: no pain -- no gain, second place is first loser, fail to prepare -- prepare to fail etc. If the brain stimulation can't be absorbed in a single gulp, it seems, it's not worth the bother.

This fondness for quick-fix solutions among sports practitioners and spectators may help explain the phenomenal popularity of energy drinks, those gaudily coloured concoctions that almost invariably taste as tacky as they look. The annual global market for these products is worth billions and growing fast.

Last week, however, the industry suffered a major shock with news that the makers of Monster, an energy drink with the caffeine equivalent of seven cans of Coca Cola, are being sued by the family of a 14-year-old girl who died after consuming two 24-ounce cans on consecutive days.

The US Food and Drink Administration is investigating four other incidents in which people died shortly after ingesting the drink.

Monster Beverage Corps strenuously denied that this product is "in any way responsible" for these deaths, and intends to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit. Nevertheless, the adverse publicity has rocked the trade.

Monster products are available on Irish shop-shelves but here, unlike in the US, they carry explicit labels warning of their "high caffeine content".

Following last week's developments, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland advised that energy drinks should not be drunk by children or vulnerable people, including pregnant women.

"Parents wouldn't give coffee to their children, so our recommendation is that children don't drink these at all," said an FSAI spokesperson.

Greater public awareness about the myriad health risks lurking inside some health supplements and stimulants is urgently required.

Energy drinks have become lifestyle statements, ostentatious messages in a bottle that are especially favoured by young people who want the world to know of their devotion to the new religion of healthy living.

The irony is that opening a container of this stuff is often the closest many kids ever get to a workout. For some, drinking sports beverages has become an alternative to participation in sports activity.

Consumers of booze, fags and junk food are increasingly treated as pariahs by governments that yearn to be seen as champions of public health. But in truth, the gullible zeal of health nuts is also a significant problem.

Already overexposed to the perils of pop psychology, fans should be alerted to the even more dangerous hazards of pop medicine and medicinal pop.

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