The Dangers of Energy Drinks
By Dan Munford, 436th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
/ Published June 13, 2016
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
Energy drinks are a multibillion dollar industry, and their consumption is very popular among young adults. It is estimated that 34 percent of adults age 18-24 consume energy drinks. Energy drinks promise to increase stamina, concentration and mental alertness. Energy drinks have become very popular in the military, and many young adults are consuming energy drinks as if they were soft drinks, sports drinks, or water. In 2014, Monster energy beverages were the top selling cold beverages in Army and Air Force Exchange Service locations, and 3.3 million monster beverages were sold in AAFES stores in 2013.
In 2014 a team of researchers from the World Health Organization warned of the dangers of energy drinks among young people. So what are energy drinks and why are they dangerous? Energy drinks are usually non-alcoholic, sweetened, and flavored beverages containing caffeine, herbal supplements, vitamins and other additives. They provide the user with a jolt of energy and are typically marketed as boosting energy, increasing physical stamina and increasing mental performance. The ingredient that produces this effect is caffeine.
Caffeine is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system. When consumed in moderation, its main effect on the body is to increase alertness and decrease drowsiness. However when caffeine is consumed in larger doses, serious complications can occur that require emergency treatment. These complications can include breathing trouble, confusion, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, headaches, nervousness, irritability, dizziness, dehydration, seizures and death (in rare cases). Ten percent of patients who sought treatment for energy drink-related emergencies in 2011 required hospitalization according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related emergency department (ED) visits in the United States.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the caffeine content of most beverages to protect consumers from experiencing these complications. For example, the FDA limits the caffeine content in sodas to less than 72mg per 12oz can. However the FDA does not regulate the caffeine content of energy drinks because they are marketed as dietary supplements and not food. Therefore the amount of caffeine consumed from energy drinks can vary. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the caffeine content in energy drinks can have anywhere from 80 to over 500mg of caffeine per container.
How much caffeine is considered safe? According to the Mayo Clinic up to 400 mg of caffeine per day appears to be safe for most adults. One energy drink may contain over 500mg of caffeine; therefore consuming more than one energy drink a day may lead to a caffeine overdose.
It is best if you do not consume energy drinks. However if you are going to continue drinking them, drink responsibly.
Four steps you can take to avoid overdosing on caffeine and becoming an emergency room patient.
1. Limit caffeine from all sources to <400mg per day or less if you start experiencing signs and symptoms of caffeine overdose at a lower intake.
2. Do not drink energy drinks with weight loss, fat burning or sports nutrition dietary supplements.
Many of these dietary supplements contain caffeine and other stimulants. Therefore, combining energy drinks with any of these dietary supplements may lead to a caffeine overdose.
3. Do not mix energy drinks with protein supplements.
Caffeine is also a diuretic and can increase urination. Protein supplements may increase thirst and fluid needs, and this combination may lead to dehydration and possible heat injury.
4. Do not mix energy drinks with alcohol.
Caffeine masks the intoxicating and depressing effects of alcohol, which allows for increased alcohol intake for a longer duration. These factors can lead to excessive alcohol intake and increase the risk of alcohol poisoning, impaired judgement, driving while intoxicated and increased risky behavior.
If You Consume Energy Drinks, Drink Responsibly. Additional information can be found at:
http://hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements; http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/caffeine-and-alcohol.htm; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038341/