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Energy Drinks Sapping the Life from Teeth

What comes to mind when you hear the words "energy drink"? Maybe ,like many, you imagine a rush of endorphins strong enough to power you through an intense workout or soccer game. Maybe it calls to mind that much-needed boost of alertness to push through that late-night study session or due-in-like-two-hours term paper you just started. No matter the image, what it probably doesn’t make you think about is an increased rate of oral health problems and higher rates of obesity. But, according to researchers, these maladies are exactly what those so-called energy drinks are causing.

A new study titled "Association between adolescents’ consumption of total and different types of sugar-sweetened beverages with oral health impacts and weight status" from researchers at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, revealed that among 3,600 teens studied, 20 percent consumed at least one carbonated energy drink per day – and the data got worse from there.

"The study found that among those kids who drank even just one energy drink per day, 50 percent experienced frequent toothache," says Dr. Michele Simpson, a dentist based in Wilmington, North Carolina. "That’s a startlingly high number for just one type of beverage."

The problem is that these energy drinks, though many claim to be healthier than soda, often contain extra sugar. Many more that boast natural fruit juices are simply higher in acidity than colas and other sodas. Simpson says acidity can be just as bad as sugar.

"Even healthy acids like citric acid can soften the enamel of the teeth," she says. "That can rob the teeth of vital calcium, leaving them weak and brittle, and more susceptible to breakage and cavities."

The worst part, as Simpson sees it, isn’t even that the drink causes so much damage, but that it’s marketed toward a vulnerable portion of the population.

"They’re marketing these drinks to kids and teens - the very people who should be enjoying the natural rewards of staying fit and active, and who should be working hard to get good grades," says Simpson. "Advertisers are telling them that when they drink these drinks, they don’t have to work as hard, they don’t have to budget their time as well. They can go have fun and then drink this beverage and still make the goal or get the A. Even if the drink were good for the teeth, it just sends a very bad message."

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