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Are Energy Drinks More Dangerous Than We Think?

 Energy drinks are highly-caffeinated beverages that also contain a high amount of vitamins, minerals, and stimulants, such as ginseng, guarana, and taurine. They’re advertised to improve your concentration, energy, and physical performance, but in reality, they might be doing the opposite and have a multitude of profound negative effects on both your physical and mental health.

Woman Narrowly Escapes Death and Energy Drinks Are to Blame

dangers of energy drinks selection of energy drinks
Image Source and Cover Image: Jorge Franganillo/ Flickr
Let’s face it, many of us have suspected that energy drinks, being so similar in look and taste to soda drinks, could not possibly be the best for our health, but it turns out that they may be even more dangerous than we initially thought. In fact, a recent case report discusses the case of a 62-year-old woman living in a hospice facility who developed a serious kidney injury, an inflamed liver, and delirium due to a high energy drink intake.
The medical staff reported that, at first, they thought her symptoms were caused by a worsening of the lung cancer she had been previously diagnosed with, but it later turned out that the elderly woman survived on large quantities of energy drinks (up to 6 cans a day) for several weeks because she lost her appetite as a side effect of cancer and thought the drinks were a good replacement of food. By cutting off her intake of energy drinks and providing proper hydration and supportive care, the medical staff managed to restore the woman to consciousness, reverse the kidney damage, and nurtured her back to health, but they do point out that the woman narrowly escaped death.
dangers of energy drinks woman opening a can
The bottom line of the story? Energy drinks are not as harmless as one might think, and they are not a good source for hydration either, as the doctors report. Some of the ingredients these drinks contain in high quantities, such as caffeine, for example, can be quite dehydrating. All in all, previous medical research investigating the health effects of energy drinks outlined 6 known harmful effects of energy drinks on the human body, which we discuss further.

1. Energy Drinks Cause Kidney and Liver Damage

The case of the woman we discussed above is unfortunately not unique, but she is the first reported person to suffer from both kidney and liver damage as a result of energy drink abuse, for lack of a better term. Usually, patients develop one or the other. Some ingredients these drinks contain may be to blame for these adverse health effects. These ingredients are:
  • Caffeine, which can be dehydrating, especially in such high doses, i.e. many of these drinks contain 215 mg of caffeine or more than can be found in 2 cups of coffee.
  • Niacin (vitamin B3) in high doses can cause liver damage. 
dangers of energy drinks woman lower back pain

2. Increased Risk of Heart Problems for Those Who Consume Energy Drinks

Energy drinks can also be very dangerous for the heart, especially if consumed in high doses. Livescience reported a case where "a 28-year-old Australian man suffered cardiac arrest after consuming eight cans of an energy drink, containing 80 mg of caffeine each, over seven hours." Heart attacks and hypertension are some of the other common conditions associated with energy drinks.

Medical professionals believe this may be due to the high caffeine content since caffeine in high doses is known to boost the blood pressure and heart rate, as well as cause arrhythmia - all of which significantly increase the likelihood of a heart event.

3. These Beverages Can Impair Cognitive Functioning and Mental Health

dangers of energy drinks woman difficulty concentrating
You might be relying on energy drinks when you have to go to sleep later than usual or pull an all-nighter, but you might be actually better off without them, according to medical research.  Highly-caffeinated drinks can actually impair cognition in a variety of ways. One study, for example, found that high doses of caffeine (80 ml, equal to about a can of RedBull) worsen concentration and make you even more tired than you already were. Energy drinks are also associated with increased anxiety and stress.
Finally, taurine, another common ingredient in energy drinks, is well known to cause neurological symptoms, such as loss of balance and vertigo in patients with kidney problems, which is exactly what happened to the woman in the aforementioned case report.

4. Consuming Energy Drinks May Increase the Risk of Miscarriage

Caffeine consumption in doses exceeding 200 mg a day, irrespective of the source - coffee, energy drinks, chocolate, or soft drinks - may increase the risk of miscarriage according to research from 2006. The study is the only one to confirm these results, but pregnant women should still be wary of their caffeine intake.

5. Energy Drinks Don’t Mix Well With Alcohol

dangers of energy drinks hand pushing away a glass with alcohol
When we consume alcohol, we typically develop toxicity symptoms once ethanol starts building up in our system. We call these toxicity symptoms 'being drunk'. These symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, flushed cheeks, and slurred or incoherent speech. If you mix energy drinks with alcohol, these symptoms may become less noticeable, which is a problem, since you will drink more than you can handle and doing so has been systematically shown to increase one's risk of alcohol dependence, alcohol poisoning, and ultimately - alcohol-induced liver damage.

6. Digestive Issues

High levels of niacin, a common ingredient in energy drinks, have been associated with stomach cramps and other digestive issues, especially in people already suffering from peptic ulcers or ulcerative colitis. Reviews also report a higher incidence of obesity in those who consume energy drinks regularly, so they may also contribute to weight gain.

In summary, energy drinks may not be that good at keeping you awake or hydrating your body, which is why most people drink them. In addition, these drinks can affect your internal organs, and increase stress levels, anxiety, and blood pressure, with many added adverse effects added on for those who drink them in large amounts. We recommend replacing these drinks with homemade wholesome alternatives, such as energizing smoothies and other healthy energizing drinks.

 

 

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