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one of the freakiest studies ever…. and it’s about energy drinks!


Energy Drink Dangers

  Certain industries have a history of using wartime “generosity” to get soldiers hooked on their products, namely alcohol and tobacco.  Those of you who have watched an “OLD SOLDIER” trying to drink their nightmares away, or smoking through their ‘trache’ outside the side door of a VA hospital, know exactly what I mean. It seems that we need to add yet another product to this list.

A study from last month’s issue of Military Medicine tells the story via its title; Energy Drink Use in U.S. Service Members After Deployment: Associations With Mental Health Problems, Aggression, and Fatigue.  A team of four researchers from Walter Reed’s Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience concluded that, “energy drink use was reported by one in six soldiers and was significantly related to mental health problems, aggressive behaviors, and fatigue in a military population following a combat deployment.”  As I will show with both tobacco and alcohol, it’s not like targeting military personnel is anything new when it comes to marketing (or ‘hooking’) our sons and daughters on highly addictive products.

From WWI through Vietnam, the US military has made sure that our boys got their smokes.  And even though this practice was supposedly done away with after the Vietnam War, numerous sources show that it continued all the way into the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Information on this topic is abundant and comes in the form of message board threads, journal articles, studies, and an array of pieces from a wide range of magazines and books.  One of the more telling titles came from a 2014 issue of Mother Jones (Is the World’s Most Powerful Military Defenseless Against Big Tobacco?).

“War is indeed dangerous, but cigarettes kill far more soldiers and citizens than war does. It’s not even close. More than 480,000 Americans die from smoking and secondhand smoke exposure every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—more than died on the battlefields of World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined.  Cigarettes kill more soldiers and sailors than wars do, and cost taxpayers billions. Yet Congress keeps shooting down the Pentagon’s efforts to snuff them out.”

Thanks to millions of American servicemen coming home from Europe and the South Pacific addicted to tobacco, within three years after WWII (it ended in August of ’45), lung cancer was shown to be growing at a rate five times greater than that of other CANCERS.  In WWI, part of the Doughboy’s ration was loose tobacco and rolling papers.  However, because of ease of use, it didn’t take long for factory-rolled cigarettes to become the smokes-of-choice for US servicemen, who, by WWII were being provided with 4-packs as part of their C-rations.

Earlier this year, the Truth Initiative published a piece titled Tobacco Use in the Military, which not only provided tons of information on Big Tobacco’s specific efforts to hook the US GI on their products, but revealed how ridiculously high the smoking rates continue to be in, as opposed to outside the military.  For more information, read The Cigarette Manufacturers’ Efforts to Promote Tobacco to the U.S. Military from the October 2005 issue of the same journal we are discussing today (Military Medicine), the NIH’s online book, Combating Tobacco Use in Military and Veteran Populations, or ‘Everywhere the Soldier Will Be’: Wartime Tobacco Promotion in the US Military from a ten year old issue of the American Journal of Public Health.  Which brings us to industry promotion of alcohol in the military.

Honestly, we see virtually the same phenomenon with Big Alcohol’s promotion of drinking (mostly beer) as we did for tobacco —- and it’s nothing new.  The magazine, All About Beer, published a 2002 article by Alan Moen titled Beer Goes to War, which revealed that advocating beer drinking within the military has been going on for a very long time, much to the delight of brewers.

“As part of a soldier’s regular daily ration as decreed by the Continental Congress, beer fueled the flames of freedom burning within its armies. The statute, enacted on November 4, 1775, stipulated that each soldier be provided with ‘I QT of Spruce Beer, or Cider/man/day.’  George Washington himself, major general of the American rebel army, was a firm believer in the importance of beer as a staple for his troops. According to historian Gregg Smith, ‘among Washington’s least recognized but most valuable skills was locating his encampments within reach of a supply of beer.'”

The trend continued through the Civil War, WWI, and into WWII, where the USDA actually mandated that a whopping 15% of all US beer production go to our boys overseas (as well as 30% of our national cigarette production).  By the time Vietnam rolled around, beer was ubiquitous to military facilities, with numerous articles and message boards speaking of fire-bases supplied with stacked pallets of their most important ammunition, beer.  Industry sentiment was captured by Jake Hall, writing for a 2015 issue of War on the Rocks (A Farewell to Sobriety, Part Two: Drinking During World War II).

“Consider the lobbying hours that American distilleries must have put in with politicians, insisting that war or no, they were all still capitalists together, and that making torpedo fuel was good, but making money was essential.”

Since I am not against having a few beers now and then, what’s the point?  Only that American industry has proven time and time again that it will do whatever it takes to both create and keep market share, seeing our soldiers as highly valuable commodities; damn the long-term health-related consequences.  Enough, however, about tobacco and alcohol; let’s take a moment and step into the world of the American military’s latest addiction —- “Energy Drinks”. 

The most popular energy drinks today (Red Bull, Rockstar, Amp, and Monster) also happened to be the ones specifically mentioned in this study.  Numerous other studies, however, have likewise shown energy drinks and their ingredients (copious amounts of sugar, caffeine, etc) can lead to MIGRAINES, INSOMNIA (due to creating an artificially induced state of SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE), ADDICTION, INSULIN RESISTANCE & T2D, HBP, and any number of others including cardiac arrest / heart failure.  The study we are looking at today specifically listed ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, and alcohol abuse (a whopping 30%), along with various forms of violent behavior and PTSD, as commonly associated with regular consumption of energy drinks. Is anyone shocked?

Earlier this year (July), the National Institute of Health issued a rather freaky warning for energy drink consumption, which provided a glimpse into just how popular these products are with the younger generation. “Energy drinks are widely promoted as products that increase energy and enhance mental alertness and physical performance. Next to multivitamins, energy drinks are the most popular dietary supplement consumed by American teens and young adults. Men between the ages of 18 and 34 years consume the most energy drinks, and almost one-third of teens between 12 and 17 years drink them regularly.”  Among other facts mentioned, was the propensity to use them as alcohol mixers.

Takeaways from today’s study were that seven months post-combat, over three quarters of the nearly 700 soldiers quizzed, still reported regularly consuming energy drinks, with 1 in 6 quaffing more than two a day.  What’s probably not surprising is that a 2012 study (Energy Drink Consumption and its Association with Sleep Problems Among U.S. Service Members on a Combat Deployment – Afghanistan, 2010) showed that consumption was even higher for soldiers in the field, with an almost unbelievable 45% drinking these creatures daily (BTW, that study came to similar conclusions as this one).  Listen to the findings from the authors of today’s study.

“In the deployed context, the appeal of energy drinks is understandable given that there is substantial restriction in sleep as well as regular circadian disruption due to night-time operations; indeed, caffeine is a recommended option to sustain alertness in this environment. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, energy drinks were often made readily available to deployed service members at no cost.  Interestingly, energy drink use was associated with fatigue. This relationship suggests that energy drink use may potentially exacerbate, rather than alleviate, fatigue. This finding stands in contrast to the marketing of energy drinks as a way to increase energy and reduce fatigue.”

I well remember the marketing campaign for the first energy drink; something called Jolt (1985) that I am not sure whether or not is still around —- “All the sugar and twice the caffeine“.  Bottom line, if you or your children are regular or even semi-regular consumers of energy drinks, SODA, or worse yet, DIET SODA, stop it already.  Numerous studies have not only shown their association to a myriad of health problems, but just as bad, for a significant number of people this stuff is as addictive as crack (HERE).

If you are looking to turn your life around, break out of the fatigue and mental fog, diminish your systemic inflammatory load, and basically start the process of taking your life back, now is the time to start preparing and planning.  I say preparing and planning because the NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION you are contemplating in less than a week, will be broken in less than two —- unless you do two things.  Create a written plan (HERE) and get an accountability partner who will encourage you, chide you, or drop kick you into next week, whichever is most appropriate for your situation (HERE).  If you want to see my generic protocol for getting healthier, it’s HERE and it’s completely free.  And if you liked today’s post, be sure to see that it makes the rounds on FACEBOOK — especially if you have teenagers!


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