It is not surprising to see how energy drinks have become the first beverage choice of many young people around the world. These drinks are high in caffeine with additional ingredients like taurine, guarana, ginseng etc and promise to give you an energy boost, ignite your mind, refresh your body.
The new research, published in the journal JAMA, found that consuming one 16-ounce can of energy drink raised blood pressure and a stress hormone among young adults. It also raises the risks of Cardiovascular Diseases among adults.
“Energy drinks could cause public health problems, says WHO study,” The Guardian reports.
Energy drinks, ‘Boon or Bane? Let’s find out
So what are these so-called “energy drinks”? Where did they come from? What makes them so popular among the youth? Do they really provide you with the energy as they seem to promise or you are compromising on your health and well-being?
Why recent obsession with energy drinks?
We are living in the twenty-first century, high paced and ever demanding life. Every new day throws new challenges no matter what your age or profession. We are all struggling day in and day out to catch up with the fast paced life, hectic schedules and busy lifestyles.
While our life gets crazy busy and hectic, a good night’s sleep goes for a toss. Sleep deprivation can make you feel groggy, fatigued, dazed, sullen and harried. According to estimates, average American adult sleep time has dropped from 8 hours per night to 6.5 hours in recent years. Experts suggest the lack of sleep is likely the primary reason for the lack of energy experienced by people.
Caffeinated beverages like energy drinks seem to be the immediate solution when we are completely drained and spent.
Energy drinks market in the US
No wonder energy drink sales are skyrocketing and becoming the beverage of choice among Americans. According to the “Energy Drinks and Shots: Market Trends in the U.S.” report, sales of energy drinks and shots will grow to a value of $21.5 billion by 2017. WOW.
The popularity of energy drinks can be credited to the aggressive and snazzy marketing campaigns targetted at the youth. No denying, these hip and edgy advertisements promise energy pep, help stay up and bright, enhance performance, stamina which fits in perfectly to the aspirations of the youth.
Though youth are the largest consumers of energy drinks, it is catching up with every age group who is looking for an extra boost of energy that means most of us.
What are these energy drinks and where did they come from?
Energy drinks origin can be traced back to Japan where these drinks were introduced in the 60’s called “eiyō dorinku” (literally, “nutritional drinks”). They started gaining popularity in Europe possibly due to the rave culture in 80’s and 90’s.
The first American energy drink was introduced in 1985 called Jolt Cola with the slogan; “All the sugar and twice the caffeine.” These drinks were always a subset of early soft drinks. Pepsi was originally marketed as an energy booster. Coca-Cola’s name was derived from its two active ingredients, both known stimulants: coca leaves and kola nuts (a source of caffeine)
According to Department of Nutrition, the University of California, “energy drinks” refers to beverages that contain caffeine and combined with other ingredients like taurine, guarana, B vitamins etc. These drinks claim to provide extra energy. This term was created by companies in the beverage industry and it is not recognised by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Is there any evidence that energy drinks really give you an extra burst of energy?
There is limited evidence about the efficacy of energy drinks and their effect on physical and mental performance. Do they really decrease fatigue and improve concentration, is still to be substantiated. However, a typical can of energy drink can contain almost the same amount of caffeine as in a regular cup of coffee.
Caffeine and sugar content of energy drinks?
( fl.oz. )
|Serving Per Can||Sugar Per Serving ( g )||CCaffeine Per Serving ( m g )||Kcal|
|Diet Rockstar Energy Drink™||8||2||0g||80||10|
|Go Girl Sugar-Free™||12||1||0g||150||3|
|Lo-Carb Monster XXL™||8||3||3g||80||10|
|Monster Energy Assault™||8||2||27g||80||100|
|Monster Energy XXL™||8||3||27g||80||100|
|Red Bull Sugar-Free™||8.3||1||0g||80||10|
|Rockstar Energy Drink™||8||2||30g||80||130|
|Wired 294 Caffeine™||8||2||26g||147||100|
Caffeine, which is a stimulant, is the primary ingredient in energy drinks. The second ingredient is generally sugar which in itself is an energy booster for most people. It is estimated a 24-oz energy drink may contain as much as 300mg of caffeine, which equals to four or five cups of coffee.
There are other ingredients as well like guarana which is another source of caffeine and also called Brazilian cocoa, taurine, ginseng, B vitamins, glucuronolactone, Yohimbe, carnitine, and bitter orange.
Unusual ingredients in energy drinks and what do they claim to do?
|Ingredient||Found In||Function Claims|
|Carnitine||Monster™, Rockstar™, Full Throttle™||Improves endurance, increases fat metabolism; protect against cardiovascular disease)|
|Glucuronlactone||Go Girl Sugar-Free™, Red|
|Promotes excretion of toxins and protects against cancer|
|Guarana||Monster™, Rockstar™, Full Throttle™||Increases energy enhances physical performance and promotes weight loss|
|Inositol||Go Girl Sugar-Free™, Red Bull™, Monster™, Rockstar™, Wired B12 Rush™||Decreases triglyceride and cholesterol levels, lowering risk of cardiovascular disease|
|Panax Ginseng||Monster™, Rockstar™||Speeds illness recovery; improves mental, physical, and sexual performance; controls blood glucose, and lowers blood pressure|
|Super Citramax (Hydroxy Citric Acid, Garcinia Cambogia Extract)||Go Girl Sugar-Free™||Suppresses appetite, resulting in weight loss|
|Taurine||Go Girl Sugar-Free™, Red Bull™, Monster, Rockstar™, Full Throttle™||Lowers risk of diabetes, epilepsy, and high blood pressure|
|Yohimbine HCL||VPX Redline™||Improves sexual performance and promotes weight loss|
Is there any scientific evidence to support these claims?
|Carnitine||There is no clinical evidence that carnitine use is effective for increased endurance or weight loss, but it may protect against heart disease.|
|Glucuronlactone||Scientific evidence does not exist to support claims regarding the efficacy of glucuronolactone.|
|Guarana||A major component of guarana is caffeine. Caffeine consumption has been associated with increased energy, enhancement of physical performance, and suppressed appetite.|
|Inositol||Scientific evidence does not exist to support claims regarding the efficacy of inositol.|
|Panax Ginseng||Scientific evidence does not exist to support claims regarding the efficacy of Panax ginseng.|
|Super Citramax (Hydroxy Citric Acid, Garcinia Cambogia Extract)||There is scientific evidence that use of this supplement decreases food consumption.|
|Taurine||Clinical evidence is insufficient to show that taurine is effective in treating diabetes or epilepsy, but it may lower blood pressure.|
|Yohimbine HCL||Although yohimbine HCL may increase blood flow to sexual organs, there is no evidence that it increases sexual arousal. It may be effective at treating erectile dysfunction. Currently, no evidence exists to support the claim that use of this supplement leads to weight loss.|
|Carnitine||Insufficient data exists to establish the safety of carnitine use.|
|Glucuronlactone||Insufficient data exists to establish the safety of glucuronolactone use at the concentrations found in energy drinks.|
|Guarana||This substance is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug|
Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA CFSAN).
|Inositol||Insoitol is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration.|
|Panax Ginseng||Insufficient data exists to establish the safety of Panax ginseng use.|
|Super Citramax (Hydroxy Citric Acid, Garcinia Cambogia Extract)||Insufficient data exists to establish the safety of super Citra max use.|
|Taurine||Insufficient data exists to establish the safety of taurine use.|
|Yohimbine HCL||Approved for use by the FDA to treat hypertension and sexual dysfunction, but over the counter use is not recommended.|
What are the Risks associated with energy drink consumption?
Many studies have associated energy drinks which contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants to serious and adverse health effects.
It raises blood pressure and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease: A new research which was published in the journal JAMA, found that drinking one 16-ounce energy drink raised blood pressure and a stress hormone among young adults. The finding is further supported by researchers from Mayo Clinic who suggest that Energy drinks raise resting blood pressure, with the effect most dramatic in those not used to caffeine.
According to the lead author, Anna Svatikova, M.D., Ph.D., cardiovascular diseases and fellow at the Mayo Clinic, “We know that energy drink consumption is widespread and rising among young people. Concerns about the health safety of energy drinks have been raised. We and others have previously shown that energy drinks increase blood pressure”. “Now we are seeing that for those not used to caffeine, the concern may be even greater. Consumers should use caution when using energy drinks because they may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, even among young people.”.
Here are some dangers outlined by Dr Helen Webberley GP for the Oxford Online Pharmacy
A new study showed that energy drinks cause more forceful heart contractions which could be dangerous for people with certain heart conditions. Another 2016 Study showed that people between the age group of 18-40, who consumed energy drinks on a regular basis, had a significant increase in their QTc interval, which is a marker of abnormal heart rhythm risk.
Researchers recommend that teenagers should not consume more than 250 ml of energy drink per day to keep cardiac events among teens at bay. They also suggest that these drinks should not be consumed before, during sports events or exercise.
Here are the top 10 side effects of energy drinks
- Palpitations / tachycardia
Energy drinks increase the risk of heart palpitations, heart rate and chest pain in healthy people.
Estimated 70% of patients who complain of heart palpitations at the emergency department had consumed an energy drink in the last 24 hours.
Studies have identified a direct link between energy drinks and heart palpitations.
Experts warn energy drinks are ‘even more harmful when mixed with alcohol’ (Source Dailymail)
- Tremor / shaking
- It is a proven fact that caffeine stimulates your brain and interferes with its functioning causing your body to react like involuntary shaking. Excess consumption of caffeine from coffee or energy drinks also cause tremors and shaking.
- Agitation / restlessness
- According to a study, excessive consumption of energy drinks may contribute to anxiety symptoms, restlessness and agitation. Caffeine consumption over 250mg per day can lead to physical symptoms like restlessness, nervousness, psychomotor agitation, tremulousness, and insomnia.
- Gastrointestinal upset
- High doses of caffeine in energy drinks increases the production of acid in the stomach which leads to heartburn, irritates the lining of your stomach and gut. Other symptoms of gastritis from these drinks include inflammation, pain, bleeding and ulcerations in the small intestine and stomach area.
- Chest pain/ischemia
- Chest pain or angina is quite a common post consumption of caffeine. It is known to raise blood pressure because caffeine works as a stimulant making the heart pump faster for short period of time. It can have long-term concerns if ignored.
- Excess consumption can leave you to feel dizzy and dazed. In extreme cases, they may also lead to a complete black out and fainting.
- Paresthesia (tingling or numbing of the skin)
- Consumption of caffeine in excess may cause the nervous system to become unstable, resulting in numbness or tingling sensations. According to the University of Missouri Wellness Resource Center, energy drinks consumption can make your hands numb which could be an adverse reaction to the stimulants found in these beverages.
- Millions of Americans are sleep deprived, (Read more how Sleep Deprivation Can Have Serious Health Consequences) In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently labelled insufficient sleep a public health epidemic. One of the primary reason for sleep deprivation or insomnia is excess consumption of caffeinated energy drinks.
- Respiratory distress
- Researchers believe that caffeine can negatively affect sufferers of lung diseases like COPD, pulmonary fibrosis. Caffeinated beverages quicken breathing which hinders with the absorption of oxygen by the sufferers and possibly be dangerous.
- Caffeine might also interfere with prescribed medications to counteract symptoms of lung disease.
- Popular belief is that caffeine relieves headaches and to a certain extent, it is true. Regular caffeine consumption generally leads to physical dependence. In case caffeine intake is stopped or decreased abruptly, headaches are the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine.
When it comes to energy drinks, it should not be a staple of anyone’s diet. Instead coffee is certainly a healthier source of caffeine. When it comes to health safety, everything is safe when used in moderation. An occasional energy drink will not harm most people and may pep you up. However, be careful if you have any Pre-existing medical conditions and never mix alcohol with energy drinks.
Data Source: Department of Nutrition University of California
Sign up for our newsletter.