Leo Samaniego drinks a Red Bull energy drink about once a month, whenever he feels a bit tired or because its advertisements lure him to spend a few bucks on it. However, Samaniego said he does it just for the flavor, not because of an addiction. He’s quick to affirm that energy drinks are sources of fast calories, but fall short of being nutritious and healthy.
“I’ve tasted them, and as energy sources they don’t really work,” Samaniego said. “I think people get attracted because of the way the cans look. Red Bull cans look cool.”
Samaniego, a computer engineering major, is one of thousands of young adults who either consume vitamin pills or energy drinks to supplement their food intake.
Although Samaniego only has these drinks occasionally, at least four out of 10 adults between the ages of 18 and 24 either sip them at least once a year or take vitamin pills as an alternate source of minerals and nutrients, a study conducted by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a subdivision of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has found.
The findings were reported in a study titled “Vitamin or Supplement Use Among Adults.” Local health experts said swallowing vitamin pills and gulping energy drinks is not healthy because they are not natural sources of energy found in fruits, vegetables and some animal products. They are chemically made human energy supplies.
Ellen Bauersfeld, a staff registered dietician with the Klotz Student Health Center at CSUN, said many college students have deficient meals right before starting morning classes. They somehow try to supplement their lack of nutrients with unhealthy snacks, pills or sweetened drinks, she said.
“Many students have a small cereal in the morning, and later in the day they lack the necessary energies to stay alert, to pay attention during classes or be alert in their classrooms,” Bauersfeld said. “If they are eating breakfast, it’s important for them to start eating healthy to do well (at school).”
Bauersfeld said students find it hard planning ahead about what to eat because of the pressure that comes with college life. She suggested that they develop a list of possible food supplies that are easy to find in the campus stores or markets if they find themselves strained.
“When it comes to vitamin pills, I don’t see a difference between what students drink or eat in comparison to the general population. But eating apples or grabbing a turkey sandwich can help them sustain energy,” Bauersfeld said.
Since chocolate and candy bars are not a reliable source of calories, Bauersfeld advises students to instead purchase foods like cottage cheese, yogurts, different types of nuts and sesame seeds. Corn grains and whole grain breads are also nutritious because they are good sources of proteins, she said.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that people eat meat, beans, milk and other dairy, fruits, vegetables and grains. Their intake amounts should vary depending on their age, sex, daily physical activity, weight and height. The department’s Web site has a segment titled “My Pyramid Plan,” where visitors can develop their own diets, including quantities of vegetables, fruits, proteins and grains they should eat everyday.
Sharon L. Aronoff, a health educator who also works for the campus’ health center, said students should call (818) 677-3666 to set up an appointment to talk to any of the student dietetic counselors about developing or improving their health or eating habits.
“Students should also visit the center and talk to our dietetic senior students who are willing and able to help all students with feeding, diets and health problems,” Aronoff said.
She also said that the center receives referrals from physicians whose student patients may not have enough money for private consultations regarding eating and nutritional issues.
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