Just How Bad Are Energy Drinks?

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What Are Energy Drinks?

Beverages like Red Bull, Rock Star and Monster, contain large doses of caffeine and other legal stimulants like guarana and ginseng. The amount of caffine in an energy drink can range from 75 milligrams to over 200 milligrams per serving. This compares to 34 milligrams in Coke and 55 milligrams in Mountain Dew.


From 2007 to 2011, the number of emergency room visits related to energy drinks nearly doubled in the United States, rising from slightly more than 10,000 to nearly 21,000, according to a meeting news release. Most of the cases involved young adults aged 18 to 25, followed by people aged 26 to 39.

The Dangers

Cardiac Arrest

While there is a Death by Caffeine Calculator (found at bottom of page) that can show people how many energy drinks at one time would be lethal, this formula doesn’t apply to everyone. Those with underlying heart conditions have gone into cardiac arrest after just a few energy drinks. Before drinking energy drinks or caffeine, be sure to know your heart’s health.

Headaches and Migraines

Too many energy drinks can lead to severe headaches from the caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Changing the amount of caffeine you ingest daily can cause more frequent headaches.

Insomnia

Energy drinks do a good job of keeping people awake, but when abused, they can cause some people to miss sleep all together. This lack of sleep causes impaired functioning and can be dangerous to drive or perform other concentration heavy tasks.

Type 2 Diabetes

Because many energy drinks are high in sugar, they can eventually wear out the insulin producing cells of the pancreas, which leads to type 2 diabetes.

Drug Interaction

Some of the ingredients in energy drinks can interact with prescription medications especially medications taken for depression.

Addiction

People can become addicted to caffeine and energy drinks. This can lead to lack of functioning when unable to have the energy drink or a financial stress from having to buy several energy drinks daily.

Risky behavior

There was a study published in The Journal of American College Health which showed that teens are more likely to take dangerous risks when high on caffeine. This could result in injury or legal trouble.

Jitters and Nervousness

Too much caffeine from energy drinks causes some people to shake and be anxious. This can interfere with performing needed tasks or cause emotional issues. A study out of Perth, Australia found that even just one 250ml energy drink can increase anxiety in young men.

Vomiting

Too many energy drinks can lead to vomiting. This causes dehydration and acid erosion of teeth and esophagus if frequent.

Allergic Reactions

Because of the many ingredients in energy drinks reactions could occur, from minor itching to airway constriction.
“Let people know what they are drinking,” Miller says. Certain individuals –- those who are exercising, drinking alcohol, pregnant or nursing, anyone with a pre-existing heart conditions, or under the age of 18 -- probably shouldn’t be consuming energy drinks at all. “Knowledge is power. The more you tell them, the more they can make intelligent, informed decisions.”

Ending Notes

Individual responses to caffeine vary, and these drinks should be treated carefully because of how powerful they are. Energy drinks' stimulating properties can boost the heart rate and blood pressure (sometimes to the point of palpitations), dehydrate the body, and, like other stimulants, prevent sleep.

Energy drinks should not be used while exercising as the combination of fluid loss from sweating and the diuretic quality of the caffeine can leave someone severely dehydrated.


When used occasionally, energy drinks are not necessarily bad for you, but they shouldn't be seen as "natural alternatives" either.