Rockstar entered the market in 2001, at a key point in energy drink sales in the U.S. Energy drinks were quickly gaining steam in the country at the time, asserting themselves as one of the fastest growing segments in the beverage industry. Since its launch, Rockstar has steadily gripped third place in the market, trailing Red Bull and Monster. Headed by founder Russell Weiner, the Las Vegas-based company has developed more than 20 flavors for its product, and Rockstar is available in over 30 countries.

Bigger, Cheaper, Stronger

Rockstar carved out a niche in the market: bigger, cheaper, stronger. The company launched 16 oz. cans, dwarfing top competitor Red Bull’s comparably slim 8 oz. cans, but stuck to the same price point. This provided consumers with double the caffeine content for half the price. Rockstar has since upped the ante and is now available in 24 oz. cans as well. The large size of Rockstar energy drinks plays a key role in both its marketing strategy in its health consequences.

Effects of a Single 16 oz. Can

In addition to side effects consistent with other energy drink brands, new research reveals that drinking just one 16 oz. can of Rockstar can result in health consequences. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that healthy participants (with a mean age of 29) experienced a spike in blood pressure and stress hormone levels 30 minutes after consuming a single can of the energy drink.

According to the study, one 16 oz. can of Rockstar contains 240 mg of caffeine, 2,000 mg of taurine, and other stimulants such as ginseng root and extracts of guarana seed. After consumption, participants experienced an almost 74 percent increase in the stress hormone norepinephrine. Scientists warn that the combined effects of increases in both blood pressure and norepinephrine levels could set the stage for an increased risk of cardiac events down the road. This hormone is linked to the area of humans’ brains that triggers the “fight or flight” instinct, and excess levels of the hormone can lead to a litany of serious long-term health consequences, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow, as well as kidney failure and other organ damage.

Although energy drinks are often marketed as alternatives to coffee, caffeine level comparisons are often misleading. Coffee generally contains about 100 mg of caffeine per serving, while the 16 oz. can of Rockstar contains more than double that amount.