The Harmful Side of Energy Drinks

January 7th, 2019
energy drink cans

While energy drinks are certainly popular, the World Health Organization and other organizations suggest that they may pose a danger to public health. In 2013, the worldwide market for energy drinks was $39 million. That market is predicted to reach $61 million by 2021. A detailed examination of the potential harms of energy drinks appears here.

Most energy drinks contain caffeine, sugar, and B-vitamins. Many also contain guarana, a plant-based stimulant; taurine, an amino acid found in meat and fish; and L-carnitine, which turns fat into energy. The Mayo Clinic notes amino acids, vitamins, and herbal supplements in most energy drinks appear in far greater concentrations than in natural foods and may negatively affect the body.

Effects on the Heart

Energy drinks commonly raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and may even thicken the blood. A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association links energy drinks to changing electrical activity in the heart. Other experts claim the interaction of ingredients may prevent the arteries from dilating to allow the flow of blood. Patients who have gone into cardiac arrest after consuming energy drinks often show normal lab results—with the exception of high levels of taurine and caffeine.

Effects on the Brain

In 2015, a paper in the International Journal of Health Sciences linked the consumption of 200 milligrams or more of caffeine per day to a heightened risk of caffeine intoxication. The symptoms of caffeine intoxication can include anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal irritation, muscle twitching, and restlessness, as well as periods of inexhaustibility or fatigue.

A Question of Caffeine

The Mayo Clinic states up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day appears safe for most adults. At the same time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adolescents aged 12 to 18 consume no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day, as more has been associated with elevated blood pressure. In a 2010 study, the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center also found service members drinking three or more energy drinks a day commonly get less sleep per night.

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