Why you Should Avoid Energy Drinks
Hepatitis and Energy Drinks
I have been guilty of consuming energy drinks in the past. In my university days, it was common to go out and have a can of red bull to give you a boost of energy, especially if you wanted to stay awake for a lecture after you had been out the night before.
Personally, I didn’t have any adverse effects from drinking them. But then that was probably because I didn’t have them very often, or in large quantities.
Energy drinks have been around for quite a while now, and have grown in popularity over the years.
But as time goes on, the more we learn about the adverse effects of them. One of the most recent studies was a man who presented in A & E with jaundice, abdominal pain and increased liver transamines. He was diagnosed with acute hepatitis. Fortunately he recovered, but the doctors concluded that the hepatitis was caused through the over consumption of energy drinks.
Another case of hepatitis was seen in a 22-year-old women, she presented with epigastric pain, nausea, vomiting, and a low-grade fever. It was concluded that her hepatitis had been caused from the overconsumption of energy drinks. She was consuming 10 cans a day.
Bi Polar Disorder
A women who had controlled her B-polar disorder was hospitalized with mania after drinking several cans of Red Bull over 4 days.
Energy Drinks Are Bad For Your Heart
A study done by the American Medical Association suggests that consuming Energy Drinks is bad for your heart, by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
In this study 25 healthy adults were given a 16oz Rockstar energy drink and asked to drink this in 5 minutes compared to a placebo which tasted like Rockstar without any of the stimulants.
The results showed:
“Consumption of the energy drink elicited a 6.2 percent increase in systolic blood pressure vs a 3.1 percent increase with the placebo drink. Diastolic blood pressure increased by 6.8 percent vs 0 percent with placebo. Mean blood pressure increased after consumption of the energy drink by 6.4 percent vs by 1.0 percent with the placebo drink.”
A 6% increase is significant and we know that high blood pressure puts us at more risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Whats In the energy Drinks?
Ingredients vary in energy drinks, but often contain similar things such as caffeine, guarana, ginseng, taurine and other legal stimulants.
What is Guarana?
With its exotic jungle sounding name, Guarana is derived from the seeds of a South American Tree, and it has a similar effect to caffeine just stronger. It contains between 3.6%-5.8% caffeine. A cup of coffee contains about 2%, so its considerably stronger than caffeine.
Side effects can include sleep problems, anxiety, upset stomach, increased heart beat, breast disease, and high blood pressure.
What is Ginseng?
Ginseng is a very popular plant that has been around for a long time. Through the ages it has been used to heal hardened arteries, blood and bleeding disorders, colitis and symptoms of aging. Although there haven’t been any clinical trials to confirm if it does help with these conditions. However, it is advised to act with caution when combining it with caffeine or other stimulants. There have been very few reports of adverse effects of consuming Ginseng.
Taurine is a ‘conditional’ amino acid, which is different from an ‘essential’ amino acid, because it can be made my the body, unlike an essential amino acid which needs to be obtained from food.
Taurine is important for neurological development and helps regulate water and minerals in the blood.
It is found naturally in meat, fish and breast milk. Often added to baby milks for infants that are not being breast fed.
Around 3,000 milligrams of Taurine a day is generally considered safe as a supplement.
Looking at the ingredients on the Red Bull website it states that Red Bull contains 80g Caffeine, Taurine…does not state how much, spring water, 27g sugars and B vitamins. Elsewhere I found that Red Bull Actually contains 1g of Taurine, which is the equilvalent of 1,000mg, and as we stated before, no more than 3,000 milligrams of Taurine was recommended. So in terms of Taurine content you should not be drinking more than 3 cans per day.
The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 6 teaspoons for women and no more than 9 teaspoons for men.
27g is just over 6 teaspoons of sugar in one can of red bull, so after one can we have had our complete daily allowance of sugar. Nine teaspoons is 37.5g, so men can get away with having slightly more.
B vitamins can get overlooked
While focusing on all the various stimulants and sugar in the energy drinks. It would be quite understandable to overlook the b vitamins energy drinks contain, but having too many of any vitamins is never a good thing, even though b vitamins are one of the water soluble ones.
Here is the label taken from the Red Bull website:
What are the nutrition facts of Red Bull Energy Drink?
Nutrition facts per 8.4 fl oz (250ml)
¥ Calories 110
¥ Total Fat 0g
¥ Sodium 100 mg
¥ Total Carb 28 g
¥ Sugars27 g
¥ Protein less than 1 g
¥ Vitamin B6 250%
¥ Vitamin B12 80%
¥ Pantothenic Acid 50%
This is a relatively small amount of sodium that does not pose too much of a threat. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300mgs per day which is about a teaspoon of table salt, so unless you are drinking excessive amounts of red bull around 23 cans a day, then the sodium part is not too much of a problem.
As I have already stated, this amount of sugar could cause a problem, with 1 can of red bull we have reached our daily recommended amount of sugar, without consuming anything else.
According to the National Institute for Health (NIH) there is not enough research to state what the safe limit is of supplemental Niacin. Although Niacin is used to lower cholesterol and support adrenal health. If you are having 100% of your daily recommended amount after 1 can, how detrimental is more than 1 can to your health? We know that some of the side effects associated with too much supplemental niacin includes flushing, itching, nervousness, headaches, intestinal cramps, nausea and diarrhoea. Gout and abnormal heart Rhythms have also been reported. Although the only saving grace is that Niacin is a water soluble vitamin so can get flushed out of the body.
Vitamin B6 helps support adrenal function and can be obtained from foods such as bananas, cereal grains, legumes, cheese, milk, eggs and sunflower seeds. In high amounts it can be toxic causing nausea, jaundice, and elevated liver enzymes, a toxic picture mimicking Hepititus.
Perhaps then the people I mentioned at the beginning of the article were in fact overdosing on B6, although you would have to consume a lot. The recommended daily amount is 1.3mg for men and women between 19-50, and men over 50 1.7mg, and women over 50 at 1.5mg. It is only when you start consuming really high amounts that it seems to cause a problem 2,000-3,000mg per day is associated with the above side effects. If we consider that 250% in one red bull is about 3.25mg per can that’s an awful lot of red bull. However, this could become a problem if we are already supplementing with B vitamins.
The Mayo clinic states that B12 is likely to be safe if taken in daily recommended amounts, but if 1 can is already 80% of our recommended daily amount, this does not leave a lot left for the rest of our diet.
There are also a whole host of people who are advised to exercise caution when taking B12 such as people with heart conditions, high blood pressure, a history of cancer, skin disorders, blood disorders and gastrointestinal problems.
When taking everything into consideration, with increasing knowledge of the dangers of energy drinks, and possible over supplementation of b vitamins. There does not appear to any redeeming features in energy drinks, they are more of a toxic cocktail of caffeine, sugars and b vitamins. Certainly, consuming large amounts has more of a detrimental effect on your health, than smaller amounts, but we still don’t know the long term effects of consuming drinks such as these. So my advice would be to stay clear and drink something else.