Energy drinks are, for the most part, innocuous-looking beverages that try to come off as edgier soft drinks, but one look at their ingredient lists and nutrition labels tells an entirely different story. Since Red Bull energy drink was introduced in the early 2000s, energy drinks have become the most popular beverage category for sale. Major soft-drink manufacturers have entered the market, and some have upped the ante by making outrageous health claims in order to increase sales.
In the past few years, some studies have been released claiming that consuming too many energy drinks can be hazardous to our health. Many of these drinks contain such high levels of caffeine that they can cause heart problems such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.
Experiencing severe side effects from energy drink consumption?
Despite the risks, the major manufacturers of energy drinks continue to aggressively market their products, especially to young people, who are most at risk for health problems if they consume too many of these beverages. The companies sponsor sporting and other events of interest to young people, making false claims about health benefits. Statistics show that sales continue to increase despite all the health risks. Even scrutiny from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not impacted sales, which have been steadily increasing since 2013.
What exactly makes energy drinks potentially harmful? Here is a list of 5 ingredients they contain, that when consumed in large quantities, makes them dangerous:
5. Excessive Amounts of B Vitamins
Sure, B vitamins are necessary for good health, but too much of a good thing can be harmful. Some energy drinks contain extremely high levels of B3 (niacin) and B6, which in excess are known to cause issues like skin conditions, gastrointestinal problems, liver toxicity, blurred vision and nerve damage. Monster energy drink in particular contains 200% of the Daily Value, or recommended daily limit, of niacin.
4. High Levels of Taurine
Some energy drinks contain taurine, an amino acid that supports neurological development, and regulates the amounts of water and minerals in the blood. Too much taurine, however, especially when combined with other ingredients in energy drinks, can be harmful. Very little is known about the long-term effects of too much taurine. Moreover, excessive taurine can cause dangerously low blood pressure.
3. Ginseng, Gingko Biloba, and Guarana
While these three herbal substances are inherently safe on their own, they become dangerous when combined with caffeine and sugar. Right now, there isn’t much research on just how much of these substances can be harmful, but when added to energy drinks, they can cause high blood pressure, heart palpitations, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, swelling, dehydration and kidney failure.
2. Sugar and Sugar Substitutes
Energy drinks contain high levels of sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, which is a less expensive alternative to real sugar. Recently, some brands have introduced “diet” versions of their drinks that include the same artificial sweeteners used in soft drinks. We all know that too much sugar can lead to weight gain, tooth decay, swelling, and type 2 Diabetes, which is a gateway to other serious health issues. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity.
Most energy drinks contain way more caffeine than your average soft drink or cup of coffee. Instead of boosting energy, too much caffeine can cause you to crash and feel fatigued. Caffeine is also the culprit of a whole host of health issues including digestive issues, dizziness, irritability, nausea, dehydration, withdrawal, and headaches. Consuming two energy drinks per day is ingesting the same amount of caffeine in 12 cans of regular soft drinks like Coke or Pepsi.
Next time you think about reaching for an energy to score a quick buzz, think about the myriad of harmful ingredients hiding inside each can. Hopefully, you’ll think twice.