Energy drinks promise to improve physical and mental performance, but they may actually be dangerous – or even deadly.
About 31 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 regularly use energy drinks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and about 34 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 use these products.
The number of emergency department visits relating to energy drinks doubled from 2007 to 2011, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), skyrocketing from 10,068 visits to 20,783 in just five years. According to statistics presented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), there have been 34 deaths linked to energy drinks since 2004; half of these deaths occurred since 2012.
Exposure to energy drinks is especially dangerous for young children. The American Heart Association says that about 40 percent of all energy drink exposure calls to the National Poison Data System (NPDS) involve children younger than 6 years old. Some of these young patients suffered serious heart and nervous system symptoms. Fifty-seven percent of those kids suffering major problems after consuming energy drinks had cardiovascular symptoms, including heart rhythm disorders and problems with conduction, which is the progression of electrical impulses through the heart that cause it to beat. Just over half of the children experiencing major problems after energy drink exposure suffered seizures or other neurological problems.
What’s inside energy drinks?
Caffeine is a natural ingredient in tea, coffee, and more than 60 other plants and plant derivatives, known as botanicals. Guarana, yerba mate, kola nut, and green tea extract are types of botanicals often used in dietary supplements and energy drinks. The product’s label ingredient must disclose the botanicals used.
About 85 percent of people in the United States consume at least one caffeinated beverage per day, with a mean daily intake of about 165 mg of caffeine. Caffeine is the main ingredient in energy drinks, and it the one that causes the most health concerns. A single can of an energy drink may contain as much caffeine as five cups of coffee.
Caffeine can cause a very fast heartbeat and rising blood pressure. High doses of caffeine can cause caffeine poisoning. This serious condition can occur when an adult consumes more than 400 mg of caffeine in one day, when an adolescent drinks more than 100 mg/day, or when children under the age of 12 consume 2.5 mg per kilogram of body weight.
In addition to caffeine, energy drinks typically contain sugar and other ingredients, such as taurine, guarana, and B vitamins that can stimulate the cardiovascular and central nervous systems to cause adverse effects. Adults and children with underlying risk factors for cardiovascular problems, such as a predisposition to high blood pressure, or a heart-rhythm condition, are at special risk for suffering an adverse effect from consuming energy drinks.
Bottom line, be very cautious about your energy drink consumption. If you’re ever unsure about how these drinks could be affecting your health, make an appointment with your primary care physician.