NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — There is an ongoing study on the prevalence of energy drink consumption among all Air Force personnel, including civilians, stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The survey was initiated by investigators at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. in September to understand how many Air Force personnel consume energy drinks, the side effects that are experienced, and the reasons people choose to drink them. After gaining approval from the Air Force Survey Office, 11 other sites have been invited to join the research efforts, with Nellis being one of the selected bases. The survey will run for four weeks at each site, with the study collection period concluding at the end of the year.
Energy drinks are widely used in the military, although little is known about the physical effects on the body. The Air Force Times published an article in June 2012 regarding a two-year research project currently underway at David Grant USAF Medical Center, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The study is specifically looking at the effects of energy drinks on the blood pressure and heart rate/rhythm of users.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits the amount of caffeine in sodas and other beverages to no more than 71mg per 12-oz can, there are no such restrictions on energy drinks since they are classified as nutritional supplements. This is particularly concerning to medical providers, since some energy drinks contain up to 500mg per container. Most people consume them for the positive effects of increased mental alertness, energy and stamina. However, excessive amounts of caffeine can cause insomnia, irritability, anxiety, headaches and increased heartbeat.
In October of this year, the family of a 14 year-old girl sued the makers of one particular energy drink for wrongful death. After consuming two 24-oz containers in 24 hours, the girl lost consciousness and later died from cardiac arrhythmia; rapid, slow, or irregular heart rate, due to caffeine toxicity. Although there have not been any reports of deaths attributed to energy drinks in the military, the limited knowledge about their physical effects and how many Air Force personnel consume them is a potential health risk.
A previous research study in 2008 found consumption rates of energy drinks to be 61 percent of all active duty members surveyed at one Air Force base. A more recent study in 2012 at Travis AFB indicated that consumption rates were 87 percent for active duty members, with 40 percent consuming at least one drink per week. Consumption among non-active duty members at Travis was 61 percent. These findings raise more questions about why the more recent consumption rates are higher, and why active duty members consume energy drinks at higher rates than non-active duty members. Your participation in this survey may help provide answers to these questions.
To take the survey online, go to www.nellis.af.mil and open the story “Energy drink survey comes to Nellis’, and click on the ‘related link’ portion which says ‘click here to take the survey’.