Are Energy Drinks Worth the Health Risks?
According to a recent Global Energy Drink Market Analysis, the market size for these popular beverages is expected to reach a whopping $72 billion by 2024 and is rising at an incredible market growth rate of 7.1%.
Energy drinks are big business. But are they really good for you?
While consumers are endorsing them with their dollars, physicians around the globe are calling for more research into the safety of the drinks and the World Health Organization warns that “Increased consumption of energy drinks may pose danger to public health, especially among young people.”
Last year the Washington Post reported that a South Carolina high school student collapsed and died after drinking a latte, a Mountain Dew, and an energy drink. “His sudden death may have remained a medical mystery, the coroner who conducted his autopsy said, if friends hadn’t described what Davis ingested during lunch: Enough caffeine to disrupt and ultimately stop his heart.”
What Are Energy Drinks?
We all probably know someone who relies on the heart-pounding wallop that guzzling an energy drink can provide, but what’s in them? And are they safe? Energy drinks (EDs) are commonly used as a dietary supplement by young adolescents and adults to boost physical performance or enhance concentration. For some, the number of “Monsters” or “Red Bulls” consumed serves as an indication of just how hard they’ve studied or how much they’ve been working.
Most EDs contain a variety of ingredients, but pharmaceutical-grade caffeine and additional caffeine from other natural sources is often the primary stimulant. By way of comparison, some energy drinks contain up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per can or bottle, compared to 100-150 mg in a typical cup of coffee.
Other components commonly found in these drinks include guarana, yerba mate, taurine, theophylline, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, vitamins, and L-carnitine. The long-term health effects of these additives are not well-documented.
Like caffeine, however, these additional ingredients are also believed to increase one’s energy and stimulate mental performance. Both guarana and yerba mate are natural sources of caffeine, making the total amount of caffeine in an ED hard to determine. Because of this, the actual amount of caffeine contained in an ED may not be accurately reflected on its label, making it difficult for consumers to understand how much of the stimulant they’re actually ingesting.
What are the Adverse Side-Effects of Energy Drinks?
In 2017, US News and World Report noted that in 2016 there were more than 20,000 emergency room visits attributed to the ingestion of energy drinks. And, because the drinks are often marketed to younger consumers, some 1,145 Americans ages 12 to 17 were admitted to emergency rooms for energy drink-related health emergencies in 2007. That number climbed to 1,499 in 2011 (Centers for Disease Control).
Although most healthy adults can enjoy the occasional energy drink without harm, possible side effects of consuming EDs include: elevated blood pressure, dehydration, insomnia, anxiety, increased heart rate, increased corrected QT interval, supraventricular arrhythmia, ventricular arrhythmia, coronary artery spasm, coronary artery thrombosis, aortic dissection, and sudden cardiac death.
Recent research shows just one energy drink can affect blood vessel function (Science Daily). Other studies have shown that caffeine-and-herbal combinations can increase stress hormones and are linked to changes in blood pressure and the heart’s electrical activity.
Potential long-term, chronic effects may include hypertensive heart disease, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral arterial disease.
“Energy drinks are frequently consumed by young athletes and there are reports of morbidity and mortality associated with consumption. In particular, susceptible individuals include younger, smaller, caffeine-naïve/sensitive, pregnant or breastfeeding women and those with underlying medical conditions. While most healthy adults can consume a single energy drink without any significant negative acute health effects, the long-term effects of chronic consumption have not been well studied” (American College of Cardiology).
What are Some Healthy Alternatives to Energy Drinks?
Not only are EDs packed with unhealthy levels of caffeine, but they’re also loaded with sugar. You may have noticed that we’re on a health kick around here, so be sure to check out our heart-healthy posts including 5 Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease, The Great American Smokeout, and How Obesity Plays a Role in Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Young People.
In the meantime, here are a few healthy alternatives to energy drinks for you to incorporate into your diet and lifestyle to help ensure that your body is working at its best:
- Protein: Put down the can and step away from the sugar and caffeine! Healthy, lean proteins can help keep our bodies alert and encourage our bodies to burn calories.
- Dark chocolate: An ounce or two of dark chocolate contains just enough caffeine and flavonoids to give your brain a boost.
- Water: Ditch the ED and grab a glass of water. If you need a little kick, squeeze in a slice or two of lemon.
- Exercise: Take a quick break from your studies and your deadlines and run around the block or jog in place. It’s the perfect way to get the blood flowing.
- Green Tea: If you’re still craving a jolt of caffeine, green tea is the way to go. All the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties can’t hurt, either!
- Green Juices or Smoothies: Dark green veggies such as spinach, kale, and parsley are full of B vitamins that our metabolism needs to run at full steam.
For information about purchasing a new or recertified AED for your home or workplace, visit AED.com or call Cardio Partners at 866-349-4362. We also welcome your emails, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.