Energy drinks are often cloaked in sporty logos that imply physical activity and health. About 30 to 50 percent of teens and young adults consume energy drinks, and they are also marketed as a quick energy booster for adults of all ages. However, some energy drinks may not be any better than soda; many varieties contain high amounts of sugar and stimulating compounds that can adversely affect your body.
Interactions in Children and Teens
The concentrated amounts of caffeine and other ingredients found in energy drinks can lead to adverse effects in some cases. A review published in 2011 in the journal "Pediatrics" reported that children, teenagers and young adults with diabetes, seizures, heart problems, or mood and behavior disorders are more prone to serious side effects after consuming energy drinks 1. The stimulating compounds in energy drinks may also negatively interact with some medications such as prescription drugs for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
The jolt of energy from your energy drink likely comes from caffeine and caffeine-containing ingredients such as guarana. Caffeine and other energizing compounds, such as taurine, found in these drinks are diuretics, meaning they cause water loss through increased urination. The journal "Amino Acids" published a study in 2006 that found that many commercial energy drinks contain both of these substances, however, caffeine is the primary cause of water loss from the body 2. Dehydration can cause serious damage to the body, so stay hydrated with non-caffeinated drinks if you are exercising strenuously.
Most energy drinks are sweetened with a high amount of processed sugar. While this refined carbohydrate provides quick energy, it also dramatically raises blood glucose levels, causing it to crash shortly after, leading to fatigue, irritation and unhealthy food cravings. Sugar also adds excess calories -- and no nutrients -- which increases your risk of excess weight and obesity. A review published in 2008 in the "Journal of the American Pharmacists Association" reported that some energy drinks contain as much as 35 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving 3.
Other Health Effects
According to the review in the "Journal of the American Pharmacists Association," caffeine and other stimulants such as ginseng, taurine and guarana can cause insomnia, headaches and a fast heart-rate. The high amounts of caffeine found in many energy drinks may also lead to elevated blood pressure. Additionally, there have been reports of seizures linked to energy drinks, however, clinical studies have not yet confirmed this.
- Pediatrics: Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults
- Amino Acids: Diuretic Potential of Energy Drinks
- Journal of the American Pharmacists Association: Safety issues Associated With Commercially Available Energy Drinks
- University of California: Nutrition and Health Info Sheet - Energy Drinks
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