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Energy Drinksmother's day iconWhile mums will be pampered today by their children, they will also be thinking about their children’s exams, which are around the corner. The run-up to exams is a time when panic and anxiety levels among students – and their parents – reaches fever pitch. And as stress levels increase, students – especially teenagers – are increasingly turning to energy drinks to stay up all night to study.

However, despite the much-hyped ‘highs’ that energy drinks offer, many students, and their parents, do not realise that these drinks do more harm than good.

Research indicates that although energy drinks stimulate the brain and help students to pull off all-nighters before their ‘BIG’ tests, attention spikes and then eventually tapers off, resulting in excessive sleepiness and nausea the next day. Additionally, the high sugar and caffeine content in these drinks affects brain functions causing mood swings and poor decision making. A study conducted by the Rhodes University Counselling Centre has linked energy drinks to seizures, diabetes, depression, addiction and risk-prone behaviour such as excessive speeding.

Parents and teachers therefore need to discourage the use of these drinks among children and students, and encourage them to manage stress by employing coping strategies. These include regular counselling and group therapy sessions, relaxation techniques and outdoor activity. In addition to reducing stress levels, these strategies can help students stay alert, focused and refreshed.

As renowned psychologist Catherine Cilliers stated, “Downing energy drinks does not ‘give you wings’; it gives you an increased heart rate which may result in symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, trembling, hyperventilation and excessive sweating. The initial phase of ‘elevated mood and decreased fatigue’ soon wears off and continued usage leads to disrupted sleep patterns and a loss of appetite.”

Therefore, it is important to remember that instead of consuming energy drinks, healthy eating, regular exercise and drinking enough water is the best way to ensure high levels of energy.

– Samra Humayun
The writer teaches A-Levels Psychology and has a degree in Psychology from Indiana University.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 11, 2014.