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Energy drinks have become increasingly popular since they were first introduced into the European market in 1987 and then in the U.S. about 10 years later. Manufacturers of these products claim to increase energy, endurance, burn fat and improve athletic performance. The medical community has begun to question the amount of sugars, and safety of caffeine levels and other supplements in these beverages 2.
Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine, at 80 to 500 mg per can when compared to 65 to 100 mg for a cup of coffee. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and diuretic. Three cups of coffee -- about 3 -- offer a maximum recommended daily amount of 250 mg of caffeine. Another ingredient often found in these types of drinks is guarana seed extract, from a plant that is native to the Amazon. Guarana is high in caffeine content 1.
- Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine, at 80 to 500 mg per can when compared to 65 to 100 mg for a cup of coffee.
XS Energy Drink Ingredients
Caffeine is the main supplement in most energy drinks 2. It is an appetite suppressant, and has been used effectively in the treatment of migraine headaches and to combat short-term drowsiness and fatigue. According to a UC Davis publication, Guarana has been scientifically linked to increased energy, appetite suppression and athletic performance enhancement.
Caffeine or guarana consumption can result in increased heart rate, sleeplessness, nausea, anxiety, depression, nervousness, irritability, abnormal heart rhythms -- arrhythmia and late-term miscarriage. Some drugs can interact with either supplement and should be considered prior to consuming energy drinks. A study by the American Heart Association showed significant increases in heart rate and blood pressure with energy drink consumption during sedentary activities. A concern was raised that combining energy drinks with higher levels of physical activity could pose a risk for people with high blood pressure or heart disease.
- Caffeine or guarana consumption can result in increased heart rate, sleeplessness, nausea, anxiety, depression, nervousness, irritability, abnormal heart rhythms -- arrhythmia and late-term miscarriage.
- A study by the American Heart Association showed significant increases in heart rate and blood pressure with energy drink consumption during sedentary activities.
Safe Energy Drink Consumption
Caffeine in Slim-Fast
While the FDA has set a caffeine maximum level at 71 mg for a 12-oz. soda, According to "The Journal of The American Medical Association," it has not set maximums for energy drinks. Further studies on caffeine’s effects are under way with many medical organizations advising adults to consume energy drinks in moderation; and for children and teens to abstain altogether until their safety can be established. New studies have also been concerned with alcohol-based cocktails that include energy drinks. A study published in the February 2011 issue of "Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research" indicates that energy drink-laced cocktails spur continued alcohol consumption because of the stimulating effects of these beverages.
- While the FDA has set a caffeine maximum level at 71 mg for a 12-oz.
- Further studies on caffeine’s effects are under way with many medical organizations advising adults to consume energy drinks in moderation; and for children and teens to abstain altogether until their safety can be established.
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- Wilstar.com: Caffeine Content of Popular Drinks
- MedlinePlus: Caffeine In the Diet
- Body Building For You: Guarana Information
- Branum AM, Rossen LM, Schoendorf KC. Trends in caffeine intake among U.S. children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2014;133(3):386-93. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-2877
- Kamimori GH, Mclellan TM, Tate CM, Voss DM, Niro P, Lieberman HR. Caffeine improves reaction time, vigilance and logical reasoning during extended periods with restricted opportunities for sleep. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015;232(12):2031-42. doi:10.1007/s00213-014-3834-5
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 5th edition. 2013.
- Olini N, Kurth S, Huber R. The effects of caffeine on sleep and maturational markers in the rat. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(9):e72539. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072539
- Lodato F, Araújo J, Barros H, et al. Caffeine intake reduces sleep duration in adolescents. Nutr Res. 2013;33(9):726-32. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2013.06.005
- Temple JL, Ziegler AM, Graczyk A, Bendlin A, Sion T, Vattana K. Cardiovascular responses to caffeine by gender and pubertal stage. Pediatrics. 2014;134(1):e112-9. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-3962
- Temple JL. Caffeine use in children: what we know, what we have left to learn, and why we should worry. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009;33(6):793-806. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.01.001
- Center for Science in the Public Interest. Caffeine chart.
- Seifert SM, Schaechter JL, Hershorin ER, Lipshultz SE. Health effects of energy drinks on children, adolescents, and young adults. Pediatrics. 2011;127(3):511-28. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3592
- Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: are they appropriate? Pediatrics. 2011;127(6):1182-9. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0965
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Energy drinks. Updated July 26, 2018.
- Meier B. Caffeinated Drink Cited in Reports of 13 Deaths. The New York Times. 2012.
Silvia Nena is a certified fitness nutrition coach. She has over eight years experience as a nutrition and fitness instructor, implementing and running workshops for elementary-age students and their parents, as well as working with individual clients. She is the nutrition writer for "San Pedro Today Magazine," covering fitness, nutrition and overall wellness.