Energy Drinks: Benefits, Risks, and Informed Choices

Energy drinks are formulated products aimed at boosting energy levels and enhancing mental alertness and physical performance. These beverages primarily cater to the preferences of teenagers and young adults, constituting a regular part of their consumption habits.

Central to energy drinks is the inclusion of caffeine, also known as 1,3,7-trimethyl xanthine, which occurs naturally in sources like fruits, leaves, seeds, tea, and coffee. Caffeine has established its reputation for improving athletic performance.

Caffeine stands as a key ingredient in energy drinks, often accompanied by additional stimulants such as guarana, L-carnitine, and taurine. In terms of caffeine content, energy drinks typically contain around 80 to 150mg per 8 ounces, roughly equivalent to the caffeine content found in approximately 5 ounces of coffee.

Historical Timeline of Energy Drinks

The concept of energy-enhancing beverages originated in Japan after World War II. One notable creation was Lipovitan D, a herbal tonic designed to enhance both mental and physical capacities. In 1949, the trend reached the United States with the introduction of “Dr Enuf,” marking the first energy drink available in the country. This innovation eventually made its way to Europe in 1987. Since then, the global energy drink market has experienced widespread expansion. Remarkably, energy drinks have become the second-most favoured dietary supplement in the United States, underscoring their popularity and impact on consumer preferences worldwide.

 

Rise in Consumption of Energy Drinks and Health Concerns

In the last decade, there has been a notable increase in the consumption of energy drinks for reasons such as enhancing sports performance. In 2011 alone, 1499 adolescents aged 12-17 required emergency room visits due to symptoms arising from excessive energy drink consumption. Energy drinks carry several common risks, including:

  • Heart complications, which can encompass heart failure or irregular heartbeat.
  • Insomnia, as the stimulants present in energy drinks, can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Dehydration is often exacerbated by the diuretic effects of certain ingredients.
  • Anxiety, with the high caffeine content in energy drinks, potentially triggers heightened nervousness.

It’s important to be aware of these risks and consume energy drinks in moderation, particularly among young individuals, to avoid potential health complications.

Health Consequences of Consuming Energy Drinks

Psychological and Neurological effects of energy drinks:

Symptoms of caffeine intoxication typically manifest after doses equivalent to or exceeding 200 mg. Among the psychological symptoms, muscle twitching, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, etc. may be observed. Excessive consumption of energy drinks or caffeine is frequently linked to disorders like caffeine-induced anxiety, caffeine-related sleep disorders, and caffeine intoxication. Among adolescents aged 15-16, a robust connection has been observed between energy drink consumption and violent behaviours.

 

Individuals consuming over 300 mg of caffeine per day have reported experiencing hallucinations. Additionally, the combination of alcohol and energy drinks is a prevalent practice, but it’s associated with significant health risks. It’s crucial to be mindful of these potential adverse effects and exercise caution when consuming energy drinks, especially when combined with other substances like alcohol.

 

Cardiovascular issues associated with Energy Drinks:

These beverages can pose potential risks to cardiovascular health. The consumption of energy drinks has been associated with the development of atrial fibrillation. Several studies reveal the association between energy drinks and high blood pressure. Some studies mention a relationship between energy drinks and disorders such as aneurysm formation, rupture of large arteries, and dilation of arteries.

 

Gastrointestinal Effects of Energy Drinks:

Energy drinks are highly sugary. The sugar content is primarily in the form of glucose, fructose corn syrup, or sucrose. Hence, a high intake of energy drinks can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic diseases.

 

Renal and Dental Effects of Energy Drinks:

Energy drinks can impact both kidney health and dental well-being. The caffeine in energy drinks advances sodium losses through urine.

This can potentially result in changes in cardiac performance during physical activity. There have been instances of kidney impairment reported following daily energy drink consumption. 

Additionally, energy drinks have been linked to causing dental erosion. Research suggests that high levels of energy drink consumption can elevate the risk of dental erosion by up to 2.4 times.

Takeaway

Energy drinks may improve performance, however, the negative health effects of energy drinks have also been reported. The consumption of energy drinks has harmful impacts on various organs. There should be cautious intake of energy drinks considering the risks, amidst it’s rising popularity. Restrictions must be imposed on marketing and unfounded claims until research confirms the safety of products. Individuals must make informed decisions about their beverage choices and for policymakers to regulate the industry effectively.

Author: Ms Sanika Pande

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