Department of Defense Urges Soldiers To Stop With The Energy Drinks

An article issued by the DoD says many soldiers are drinking too much caffeine and sugar, exposing themselves to potential health issues in the short and long-term.

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Dec 30, 2016 at 1:30 PM ET

Military members love their energy drinks, but the Department of Defense would prefer they cut down on their consumption, according to an article published on the Army’s website last Wednesday.

Citing Dr. Patricia Deuster, the director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the article warns that high levels of caffeine and sugar and sleep problems caused by consuming those ingredients too close to bedtime can “wind up doing some serious harm to your body.”

That energy drinks are very popular with the military is well-known by now; one article cites Rip It, made by the company that brings us Shasta and Faygo and is offered to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan mess halls for free since 2004, as the “unofficial drink of the U.S. Military”; another says it “essentially fueled the American military during the recent Middle East conflicts.” Business Insider, on the other hand, calls Monster’s energy drinks “the military’s favorite beverage.” The military is largely made up of the target demographic for these drinks: young men looking for a quick caffeine boost to stay awake and alert. A survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012 found that about 45 percent of respondents who had been deployed to Afghanistan drank at least one energy drink every day; nearly 5 percent said they drank five or more.

Deuster says service members shouldn’t drink more than 200 milligrams of caffeine every four hours (female service members, who are typically smaller than men, should drink even less). Eight-ounce servings of Monster Energy and Red Bull contain about 80 milligrams; Rip It is said to contain 100. They all contain about 25 grams of sugar, which is an entire day’s recommended sugar for women and two-thirds the recommended daily amount for men. (For reference: Soda contains about the same amount of sugar per 8-ounce serving but just 18 mg of caffeine. Coffee has about the same amount or even more caffeine per serving but doesn’t come in those large, easy-to-drink cans or in fruity flavors.)

“Heavy use” of caffeine, defined by the Mayo Clinic as 500 to 600 milligrams a day, can cause side effects such as a faster heartbeat, nervousness, and insomnia (which can then cause someone to drink even more caffeine, leading to worse insomnia). Sugar can cause weight gain. The effects of long-term consumption of energy drinks, Deuster says, are not yet known. She’s also wary of energy drink ingredients like taurine, as, like energy drinks in general, little is known about the effects of long-term consumption.

Asked what service members should drink instead of caffeine-and-sugar-laden energy drinks, Deuster went with “good old water.”