Nutritionists endorse PFA’s ban on word ‘energy’ on energy drinks’ labels

  • Expert calls consuming such beverages equivalent to putting ‘substandard petrol’ in car

LAHORE: Following the ban by Punjab Food Authority (PFA) on using the term “energy” on the labels of so-called energy drinks, nutritionists weighed in on the development and termed the consumption of these beverages as equivalent to putting ‘substandard petrol’ in a car.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Nutrition director at Fatima Memorial Hospital, Dr Shazia Zahra, expressed strong reservation over categorizing certain beverages as energy drinks.

Endorsing the move by the regulatory authority, she said, “Only natural drinks, like fresh fruit juices, provide the required nutrients to the body which are then converted into energy.”

“Consider putting substandard petrol in a car. Though the car will move, its efficiency would be decreased and the low-quality petrol will destroy the whole engine and everything it flows through, over a period of time,” Dr Zahra said, adding, “These so-called energy drinks are equivalent to the second-rate petrol you put in a car.”

“The result would be that your whole body will be adversely affected by it,” she added.

“Sugar is the main problem in these energy drinks as, first of all, it is not even pure,” Dr Zahra said. “It is all chemicals.”

“Sugar processing in our country is not at par and many chemicals are involved in the process, thereby contaminating the end product,” she added.

She went on to say that “even if someone gives me Rs20 million to accept that these drinks contain nutrients that give energy, I won’t.” She added that she advises all her patients to consume natural foods as a source of replenishing energy in the body.

Another expert on food sciences from Lahore’s National Hospital, Dr Rebecca Tariq, told Pakistan Today that energy from such beverages comes from high sugar content in them. “It gives a short burst of energy due to a sugar rush in the body.”

“The after effect is that when the sugar rush subdues, the body feels low and lethargic, creating a false need of consuming the drink again to boost energy,” Dr Rebecca said. “All this creates a vicious cycle of dependency and addiction, leading to higher consumption of these beverages among individuals.”

She said that the issue is profound since the number of people resorting to consumption of such drinks for energy has increased manifolds. Most among them are children, she added.

It is pertinent to mention here that Punjab had ordered energy-drink manufacturers including Red Bull to remove the word “energy” from their labels, saying it was scientifically misleading, and encourages a population unaware of the beverages’ contents to guzzle them in potentially dangerous quantities.

The order comes amid an international regulatory pushback against the highly caffeinated fizzy drink market and is believed to be the first in the world to censor the term “energy” – a key part of the drinks’ appeal.

According to the scientific advisory panel of PFA, the word is a misnomer. The panel said rather than providing the body with nutritional energy, the large quantities of caffeine, taurine and guarana contained in energy-drinks simply stimulate the swift release of existing reserves.

“In TV commercials, people who consume these energy drinks throw huge tires, they keep running and running,” the PFA’s director, Noorul Amin Mengal had said while talking to a foreign publication. “These adverts are misleading our illiterate population and not based on reality.”

People seeking to become bodybuilders, for example, have been known to drink several cans at once, a PFA spokesman had said. Some end up in hospital, he added.