Battlefield ‘beverage of choice’ putting US troops at risk, says army health researcher
US troops relied heavily on energy drinks during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they became the “beverage of choice” for many, according to an army press release.
Now, service members are being warned to avoid consuming more than 200 milligrams of caffeine every four hours, says Dr Patricia Deuster, director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) at the Uniformed Service University of Health Sciences (USU).
The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research studied data collected in 2010 during ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ and found that nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink per day, with nearly 14 percent admitting to drinking three or more daily.
Aside from concern over the excessive amounts of sugar loaded into energy drinks, and the worrying common ingredient ‘taurine’ - an amino acid found in animal tissue, Deuster says drinking energy drinks to stay awake during shifts often leads to sleep and performance issues.
"Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member's ability to pay attention when it matters most," read the release. "Research indicates service members who drank three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty."
Deuster is advising troops to add up the caffeine content in every drink they consume throughout the day, including coffee, soda, and energy drinks: “If it’s got more than 200 milligrams of caffeine, don’t use it.”
She also warned female service members to be cautious of the 200 mg limit as “women get a higher concentration [of caffeine], since they tend to be smaller," she said.
Deuster concluded her warning to service members by encouraging them to stick to “good old water” if they’re looking for a healthy energy drink substitute.
American energy drink ‘Rip It’, marketed as a cheap, highly-caffeinated, alternative to the similar ‘Redbull’ and ‘Monster’ brands, became a key ‘fuel’ for deployed troops in the early 2000s.
“People would count ammo, how many bottles of water and how many Rip Its they got,” said Tim Hsia, an infantry officer who served for six years. He described the beverage as a “mission essential.”
A regular 8-ounce serving of Rip It contains 26g of sugar and 100mg of caffeine, plus caffeine-infused guarana seed extract. The drink comes in 15 different flavors and a sugar-free option, and is described on its website as having been “tested on the battlefield.”
US Army Ranger Shane Snell estimated at least 99 percent of enlisted men and women had tried Rip It in Iraq, with some, he said, more worried about their energy drink supply than actual food.
"If someone served over there and says they didn't at least try a Rip It, they're not being honest with you," said Army Staff Sergeant Matthew Riker, who served in Afghanistan in 2010.