I've written about energy drinks before, and by now we should all know that they're not the best thing for us, even if they do have herbal additives such as guarana and, in this case, maca - a South American root.

This one caught my eye because its sugar content shocked me, which really is something these days.

Ingredients

Carbonated water

• Sugar - This is the highest level of sugar I have found in an energy drink. The last one I looked at - Monster Energy - had 57g sugar per 500ml serving. This one has 67.3g per 500ml serve, which is 16 teaspoons.

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The World Health Organisation has plans to reduce its recommended intake of sugar from 10 teaspoons a day to five teaspoons a day because of concerns over its contribution to heart disease, obesity and tooth decay. This drink will put you far over both recommendations.

Taurine - Taurine is an amino acid or building block for proteins in the body. It is found naturally in meat and fish and some studies suggest that using it as a supplement can improve athletic performance and that when combined with caffeine it can improve mental performance, although this claim is disputed.

Our bodies can make taurine out of vitamin B6, and usually only vegetarians need a taurine supplement. It is safe to have 3000mg a day, this drink will give you 2000mg a day.

Guarana extract (0.12%) - Guarana is basically caffeine in the form of Brazilian cocoa. There is 600mg of guarana in this drink which earns it a red "whooh-hoo" and an arrow pointing to it on the can.

It is not clear from the label whether the caffeine in the guarana contributes to the overall caffeine content of 160mg in this drink or whether it is in addition to the caffeine content.

Flavours - These will be artificial. It is hard to describe the taste of this drink, it smells like orange but tastes vaguely fruity with a sour after-taste.

Colour (caramel) - This is a common colouring in soft drinks and is the safest of the caramels because sulphites and ammonium are not used in its production.

Preservatives (sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate) - Sodium benzoate is a sodium salt of benzoic acid and potassium sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid.

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Caffeine - Caffeine is well known as a stimulant and it takes 25 to 50 milligrams of caffeine for most people to feel increased alertness and arousal, and lower levels of tiredness.

For most people 300mg a day is considered okay, but children should not ingest caffeine. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority says energy drinks and energy shots containing caffeine are not for children and young teenagers, following completion of a study on caffeine which found that too much caffeine can cause dizziness, rapid heartbeat, irritability, anxiety, tremors and insomnia in children.

This drink carries the warning: "... If you're a little kid, pregnant, lactating or caffeine doesn't agree with you, then V is not for you. Usage: 1 can max. daily."

Glucuronolactone - This is a popular ingredient in energy drinks because there are claims that it detoxifies the body. Our NZ Food Standards say it is okay to have 1200mg a day; this drink will give you 125mg.

Vitamins (niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, B6, Riboflavin (B2), B12) - B vitamins are well known as useful nutrients, and also for helping you get over a hangover.

Maca extract - I'm all for natural medication but perhaps not when it is marketed as it is on this can: "Legend has it Peruvian maca was devoured by Inca warriors to boost their strength in preparation for battle." Obviously, this is a great marketing message for soldiers, but perhaps not for kids and teenagers on their way to school or adults nursing a hangover. I couldn't find any reference to maca helping warriors but some believe it is an aphrodisiac.

Either way, the amount in here, at 25mg, is so tiny I believe it would be unlikely to have any effects on strength in battle or in bed.

Antioxidant (ascorbic acid) - This is otherwise known as vitamin C.

Acidity regulators (citric acid, sodium citrate) - These will probably be in here to help that sour taste and keep the product preserved.

My recommendations:

Getting 16 teaspoons of sugar out of one 500ml drink is not good for you. This product is careful to keep all the other ingredients compliant with the limits set out by New Zealand Food Standards yet it goes well over the World Health Organisation recommended intake of 10 teaspoons of sugar a day.

The sad thing about drinks such as this is that they are so well-marketed to kids and teenagers as a source of energy - which they may be because of their high amounts of caffeine and sugar, but children should be taught that energy comes from real food, not out of a can.

If you've got a tired child or adult in your family, make sure their diet is the best it can be with plenty of fruit and vegetables and enough protein and carbohydrates. Don't encourage them to turn to something like this for a quick boost.