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August 9, 2015 | by  | in Science | [ssba]

The secret life of my Mother

I’ve renamed the act of opening my fridge door as “pick your poison” time. Strive as I might to adhere to some kind of balanced diet, my genetic mother would undoubtedly be struck with disdain at the immediate insight into my daily consumption by merely gazing upon my plethora of liquids: Peroni beer, a bottle of Oyster Bay Sav, milk, water, and then the dominating feature: an endless source of cans of Coke Zero and Mother energy drink. Much like my chromosomes are rife with shadows of my true mother’s DNA, a thorough health check would likely reveal my veins to be coursing with a blood-Mother hybrid, pumped through my body by the rhythmic systolic and diastolic crunching of an aluminium can.

Often found yielding half a litre of canned chemicals, my peers raise eyebrows and greet me daily with the warning that it’s “going to give me cancer or something”. But what is my Mother really doing to me? What secret operations does it perform throughout my body? How does it give me that “zing” in my step?

Void of proteins and fat, its nutritional base is a carbonated collaboration of carbohydrates from sugars, caffeine from guarana extract, B vitamins, taurine, glucoronolactone, inositol, preservative 202, and flavors E330 and E331.

E330 (aka citric acid), is a natural preservative, gracing my Mother with acidity and sour flavor. While my mind leaps to visions of lemons, this citric acid form is from fermentation of A. Niger mold fed on sucrose. E331 trisodium citrate contributes a further “tart” taste.

The plethora of B vitamins, naturally occurring organic compounds, are widely used energy supplement ingredients. Apparently helping the body convert food into energy, this ingredient is at first glance a contender to explain my Motherly vibrancy. However, the jury is still out, with a loud voice claiming they don’t increase energy levels via supplementation. Once considered a B vitamin before banished from the classification, like Pluto being fired from the planet club, inositol is yet another natural compound. Generally included in energy drinks, it provides carbohydrates by breaking down glucose.

Glucuronolactone, a naturally occurring compound present in connective tissues, is made from the liver breaking down glucose. Long-term and intensive exercise is known to produce all sort of toxic waste products believed to have detrimental effects, such as glycogen depletion. Though debated, the glucuronolactone addition is proposed to compensate for this depletion of glycogen in the muscles (to maintain those connective tissue levels). So no, not an energy source, but a harmless attempt to offset damage.

The amino acid Taurine is naturally produced by the body, but manufactured for addition to food sources. A regulator of heartbeat, energy levels, and muscular contractions, it’s actually produced in the body in enough quantity that there’s no need to supplement it. Regardless, it’s still often-touted due to the unproven proposal that the body doesn’t create enough when under stressful conditions.

Finally, Guarana, extracted from a native South American plant, provides the key component of the alertness, by contributing caffeine to stimulate the central nervous system. According to recent studies, it’s also the only truly functional ingredient in the “energy” feature of energy drinks.

The only initially obvious danger appears to be the preservative (202) potassium sorbate, used to prevent mold growth. Used in a wide range of foods, like cheese, wine, and yoghurt (so basically anything you’ll find in my fridge regardless of Mother), a study has indicated that it can cause damage to the DNA of specific human blood cells (peripheral blood lymphocytes).

With all the obscure ingredients explained, it’s time to conclude with the final ingredient and its vital role in the death-by-energy-drink risk. With 33g of sugar, just one can exceeds most (if not all) maximum daily sugar consumption recommendations, and as we’re constantly being reminded, high sugar intake can result in issues including (but not limited to) obesity, diabetes, low serotonin, etc.

So how is my Mother slowly killing me?  I can thank high caffeine and sugar intake, along with potential DNA damage, for fooling me with their energy-providing façade. While I’m likely wasting my money on naivety, I’m still willing to suspend belief in what I know and embrace the probably-placebo-effect-induced energy hit. The science may call my Mother futile for energy and dangerous for the body, but blood is thicker than water (and ignorance is thicker still). Whatever the case, at least when I finally succumb to corroded insides and distorted DNA, I will have lived a life alert and energized (albeit arguably shortened).


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