Energy Drinks: Do They Live Up to the Hype?

Today Americans love to get their caffeine in as much as possible, and a relatively new concept that is especially popular with students is the energy drink. We’ve all at least seen them around, with their flashy labels and commercials that preach adrenaline. But with the high levels of sugar and other pronounceable ingredients, I started to think about how effective these drinks actually are. So I decided to do some research to see if energy drinks are worth the buy.

The alternative hypothesis here is that energy drinks do cause your body to provide you with a boost of energy, but while also not causing you to “crash” later on and become much more fatigued than you were previously. On the other hand the null hypothesis is that energy drinks have little effect on your energy level.

One study I found was done by the University of Massachusetts Lowell back in 2012, focusing mainly on a company known round the world, Red Bull. The researches organized it as an experimental study, with three groups: one that drinks Red Bull, one that drinks Starbucks, and a control group that drinks nothing. For my post i will only be focusing on the Red Bull and control groups, although the coffee group also has interesting results, but they are irrelevant to our hypotheses here. Every ten minutes for an hour the participants would have thscreen-shot-2016-12-01-at-2-42-34-pmeir heart rate, reaction time, and saturated oxygen levels measured. All three of these things are a good way to measure energy levels and focus.

Here you can see the results, and the first thing I noticed was the time span, I found it a little surprising that none of the effects of the drinks lasted very long. With the heart rate the Red Bull group rose steadily until peaking at 50 minutes and then dropping sharply to slightly below their staring rate. The control group however, continued to rise throughout the entire hour.

The reaction time test yielded some interesting results, with the Red Bull group immediately descending in their response time and not starting to delay their response until about 40 minutes in. The control group started by slowing their times, but then improved greatly by the end of the hour (keep in mind the dependent variable is response time, so the lower the time the better). I do wish that this study had a longer time period, so that we could see when the reaction times return to around their initial time.

The saturated oxygen tests are all over the place, and it seems that the Red Bull did not have a defined effect on the participants compared to the control group. Overall the results showed more promise for energy drinks than I initially thought, and I do not have enough data to reject my null hypothesis so I will accept the null and say that energy drinks are in fact effective. Although, the study also shows that the control group that did not drink anything still did very similar to the Red Bull drink, so I would definitely not drink energy drinks all day everyday, or even somewhat regularly, as they are high in calories and sugars. But if you need a quick boost in your day it would help you out briefly.

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