The Truth About Energy Drinks

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Energy drinks are big business in the United States and sales are also growing rapidly worldwide with global sales over 50 Billion USD annually. Energy drinks are designed to provide a quick shot of energy and claim to also provide nutrients, but are they safe?

A Short History Of Energy Drinks

Commercial energy drinks have evolved from a 1962 Japanese drink called Lipovitan-D. Lipovitan-D, which is still available in Japan, contained a mixture of B vitamins and taurine, combined to boost energy and concentration. The drink was created by a pharmaceutical manufacturer as a medicinal tonic for patients suffering from chronic fatigue, but soon became popular with a younger Japanese crowd who would rather work and party than sleep.

During the early 1990s, the creator of Red Bull took the basic ingredients of its Japanese predecessor and added caffeine and sugar, ingredients found in virtually every energy drink available today. The energy drink market exploded once Red Bull was introduced to Americans and then exploded again as college age consumers began using it as a mixer with alcohol.

Energy Drink Health Concerns

Energy drinks are marketed as a combination of caffeine and vitamins and often compared to a cup (or two) of coffee. If you look at each ingredient individually, you won’t see anything too harmful:

Guarana is similar to caffeine in its ability to prevent tiredness and improve mental function.

Taurine is an amino acid used to improve memory and endurance.

B-vitamins help your body produce energy from the foods you eat and improve your memory.

Ginseng is a natural herb used to help reduce stress and improve endurance.

Synephrine or bitter orange is an herb used to increase metabolism and promote weight loss.

Yerba mate, Gingko and St. John’s Wort are herbs used as stimulants.

Caffeine (in small doses) is beneficial to increasing your metabolism or fighting fatigue.

Too much of a good thing. When these ingredients are combined with caffeine and sugar or potentially toxic sugar-free sweeteners, they can cause health issues. Even more so to those who suffer from high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or other ailments.

How much is too much? The occasional energy drink as a replacement for your morning coffee is relatively safe for a healthy individual. Unfortunately, energy drinks are trendy and readily available and are being consumed as a replacement for water, juice or soft drinks or used a “sports” drinks too replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Adverse reactions to energy drinks include:

    • Headache, nausea or diarrhea.

    • Dizziness and chest pains.

    • Anxiousness and the inability to fall asleep.

    • Weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

    • Addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

    • Hypertension and seizures.

    • Heart palpitations and rapid irregular heartbeat.

Alcohol And Energy Drinks

Using energy drinks as a mixer with alcohol can be dangerous as alcohol is a depressant while energy drinks are stimulants. You will feel more alert (stimulated) as you become more intoxicated which greatly increases your risk of a dangerous level of intoxication. Many also mistakenly believe that the caffeine in energy drinks “offsets” the effects of alcohol, that it “sobers you up.” However, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and does not reduce blood alcohol concentrations or reduce alcohol impairment.

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