Clinican's Corner
    Energy drinks, do you really need the boost?

    Energy drinks, beverages like Monster and Rock Star, are often marketed to increase energy, improve concentration and enhance performance. Most energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, other plant based stimulants like guarana and ginseng, simple sugars and other additives. The amount of caffeine varies between products, but can range from 75 milligrams to over 200 milligrams per serving. Compare this to 34 milligrams of caffeine in a Coke, 55 milligrams in a Mountain Dew, and 50-75 milligrams in a shot of espresso. Some energy drinks do not contain caffeine, but caffeine equivalents like guarana. If you recognize energy drinks as high caffeine drinks, you will have a more accurate picture of what they are and how they may affect you.

    What are the common effects of energy drinks?

    Energy drinks have stimulating properties and can increase wakefulness, alleviate fatigue and increase focus. Individual response to caffeine varies, but caffeine’s effects are felt about one hour after taking it and last from 4 to 6 hours. Caffeine can also cause unpleasant side effects including dehydration, nervousness, restlessness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, stomach upset and insomnia. Occasional use of energy drinks in the recommend serving size is not necessarily bad for you, but over use, or drinking large quantities can lead to serious side effects.

    How much caffeine is too much?

    Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is considered safe in healthy adults; and no more than 100 milligrams in adolescents. If your caffeine habit totals more than 500 milligrams per day, or if you are having side effects it is time to cut back.

    Are energy drinks safe to use as sports drinks or to drink when I am working out?

    No, energy drinks are not sports drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic and in combination with fluid loss from sweating can lead to severe dehydration and other side effects like increased heart rate, palpitations, or elevated blood pressure.

    What about energy drinks and alcohol?

    This combination has serious dangers. Energy drinks are a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, the effect of the stimulant in energy drinks, may mask the signs of intoxication from alcohol. This stimulant effect may give a person the impression they are not impaired from alcohol, and lead to dangerous consequences. When the stimulant effect wears off, the depressant effects of alcohol remain and could cause respiratory depression or vomiting in your sleep. Research also shows that people who combine alcohol and caffeine drink more and have higher blood alcohol concentrations. In addition, both energy drinks and alcohol are diuretics, and the combination can lead to severe dehydration. Premixed drinks containing alcohol and caffeine or other stimulants have been taken off the market because of the dangerous effects.

    What about caffeine powder?

    Powdered caffeine is very dangerous and should not be consumed. The FDA issued a warning in 2014, urging people to avoid caffeine powder after the reports of two deaths from ingestion.

    What are some caffeine free alternatives to increase energy?

    • Adequate sleep, 7-8 hours every night.
    • Daily exercise, 30-45 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
    • Spending time outside with friends or family.
    • Keeping a daily schedule, getting up and going to bed around the same time each day.
    • Eating a healthy diet, rich in whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lean protein.

    Have questions or need more information:

    Call the Student Health Center at 209-228-2273 and set up an appointment to see a provider.

    Check out: The CDC

    The Mayo Clinic

    Vaccines and Autism

    Q: Have you ever heard that vaccines cause Autism?

    A: A parent’s desire to know exactly why something as serious as autism has struck her child is very strong. The fact is, science has not yet determined exactly what causes autism. But parents can be reluctant to accept a "we don’t know" answer when vaccines offer an easy and fairly plausible alternative.

    Nevertheless, there are explanations.

    The same explanation applies to vaccines and autism. Autism is usually diagnosed during the same age range when children are getting their routine shots. Naturally, if enough children develop autism during these ages, sometimes it will be noticed within a day or two after a vaccination visit. Even if it happens several hundred times, this is a tiny number compared with the millions of children who get vaccines every year and don’t develop autism afterward.

    Also, it is a very common logical error to assume that because one event directly follows another, it must have been caused by it. We laugh at the old folk belief that the rooster’s crowing makes the sun come up, but the reasoning is exactly the same. The difference is that the idea of a rooster causing the sun to rise is ridiculous, while the idea that vaccines can cause autism sort of makes sense. But that doesn’t make the argument any more valid. For the theory that vaccines cause autism to make logical sense, someone would have to show that children who get vaccinated are more likely to develop autism than children who don’t. And no one has done that.

    It would be nice to simply say that vaccines don’t cause autism, but it wouldn’t be good science. A basic principle of science is that you can’t prove that something is not true. We all believe that if you let go of an apple it will drop to the ground. But that belief is based on the observation that it has always happened that way in the past. It doesn’t prove that the next time you try it, the apple might not fly up into the air instead.

    So to say that vaccines don’t cause autism would be scientifically dishonest, regardless of how sure we are that they don’t.

    What we can say is that at least a dozen rigorous scientific studies — designed to detect a connection between vaccines and autism — have been published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals; and these studies have overwhelmingly failed to show any connection between vaccines and autism. The Institute of Medicine, an independent, objective "advisor to the nation" on health, reviewed these studies, and concluded that there is no plausible evidence that vaccines cause autism. But they went farther than that. They advised that money that could be used to fund more studies on vaccines and autism would be better spent on areas of autism research more likely to be productive.

    This isn’t exactly saying, "Vaccines don’t cause autism," but it is about as close as any group of scientists is likely to come to it.

    If you would like to read more about vaccines and frequently asked questions, please go to

    The information in this clinician’s corner was taken directly from the website on the web page cited above.

    To Drink or not To Drink? 09.02.2015
    Being a college student here at UC Merced means being faced with the responsibility to make decisions regarding your health and safety. An example of a situation that you may encounter in college is having to make decisions regarding alcohol use.

    Irresponsible alcohol use can have serious consequences:
    • More than 1800 college students die each year from alcohol related unintentional injuries
    • More than 600,000 students are unintentionally injured each year while under the influence of alcohol
    • Irresponsible alcohol use can also lead to sexual abuse, unsafe sex, assault, drunk driving, and academic problems.
    Abstaining from alcohol is always the safest choice to make, but if you do decide to drink, there are some things you can do to decrease your risk of alcohol-related harm:
    • Avoid drinking games
    • Know your limits of alcohol consumption, set your limit and keep track of your alcohol consumption
    • Eat before and while you are drinking
    • Always have a designated driver
    • Alternate non-alcoholic drinks with those containing alcohol
    If you think you may have a problem with alcohol please make an appointment at the Student Health Center at 209-228-2273
    Welcome Bobcats!
    Welcome to our new Health Services website.
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