Energy drinks are artificial products that are composed of multiple stimulating substances that seek to generate energy regenerating effects in the consumer that reduce fatigue and tiredness.
However, the daily consumption of one or more energy drinks can have a wide variety of adverse effects. A disproportionate intake – taking 3 or more drinks of this type a day – can cause changes in heart rate, an increase in adrenaline to higher than normal levels, gastritis, stimulation of the nervous system, damage and alteration in the kidneys, promote excessive diuresis, dehydration and natriuresis (elimination of sodium in the urine), acute caffeine poisoning, dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
Tania Mesa – Director of the Neolife Nutrition and Nursing Unit
Estefanía Schoendorff – Neolife Nutrition and Nursing Unit
Are energy drinks really a danger to health?
Nowadays there are many of us who care about our health, about keeping our bodies young and not falling ill. For this reason we try to adopt and/or maintain healthy and balanced nutritional habits, a quality of life that allows us to strive to improve and maintain an optimal physical and mental performance in order to confront the real life that we are faced with every day, which is not easy.
We now have to deal with a very fast pace of life, where time is of an essence. We want to be more proactive in the workplace, while trying to maintain a physical performance acceptable to our energy needs, eat as well as possible (better seated, if it’s not asking too much) and maintain a family life and leisure time that makes us feel happy
Yet on many occasions, the lack of time makes it impossible to do every task we set ourselves every morning when we get up. And forcing ourselves to do more than our body/mind is able to withstand can unintentionally lead to us failing to get enough physical/mental rest, and what’s worse, to a mental exhaustion that in turn drives us further away from our goals … and ends up making us ill.
Therefore, over the last decade, science – or rather industry – has been aimed at finding formulas and substances that would allow them to develop food, drinks, etc. that help us to be more attentive, alert, active, energetic, etc. for a longer period of time than we would be without taking them, but … are we putting our health at risk?
Energy drinksare artificial products that are composed of multiplestimulating substances that seek to generate energy regenerating effects in the consumer that reduce fatigue and tiredness. However, the daily consumption of one or moreenergy drinkscan have a wide variety of adverse effects (1). In addition, a disproportionate intake – taking 3 or more drinks of this type a day – can cause changes in heart rate, an increase in adrenaline to higher than normal levels, gastritis due to their acidity, stimulation of thenervous system, damage and alteration in the kidneys, promote excessive diuresis, dehydrationand natriuresis (elimination of sodium in the urine), acute caffeinepoisoning, dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Excessive consumption also reducesinsulin sensitivity , increases blood pressure, produces chronic headaches in young women, anxiety, fear and panic attacks, among others.
Caffeine produces toxic effects starting at 240 mg.
Among the main compounds in these energy drinks are water, guarana, taurine, ginseng and very high concentrations of caffeine and sugar, which may present large toxic risks – as previously mentioned – due to their excessive consumption.
By excessive consumption we mean an intake of more than three 250 ml drinks a day, which in turn provide us with over 240 mg of caffeine/day. From 550 mg upwards there is cardiovascular risk and negative neurological consequences. For example, a 250 ml can of Red Bull contains about 80 mg of caffeine, with about 27 g of sugar, and a 473 ml can of Monster contains about 169 mg of caffeine and about 57 g of sugar, almost three times the daily consumption of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for our health.
The origin of thesestimulant drinks , formerly known only in Asian countries, began with their worldwide industrialization in the nineteen eighties and nineties. The most famous of them, Red Bull, began to be marketed in the 1990s, 25 years ago.
In February of this year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) journal published an article where it provides new useful warnings about this type of drinks and stimulants and their hazards, which affect a large number of the population, especially children (3).
At a sports level, these stimulant drinks, highly sweetened and caffeinated, with a high percentage of vitamins, amino acids and minerals, focus on improving the performance of athletes and their competitions when used sparingly and safely. “They may have some positive short-term effects that improve performance, “said John Higgins (2), Chief of Cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, and Director of Exercise Physiology at the Institute of Sports Medicine and Human Performance. Yet he is also aware of their danger in non-athletes when consumption is regular, uncontrolled and excessive, and he therefore seeks to warn about their use, in the following recommendations:
- We must protect children and adolescents. They have a higher risk of complications due to having a smaller body size compared to the amount of caffeine ingested.
- Marketing aimed at the child population must be withdrawn.
- Do not use energy drinksbefore, during and after strenuous exercise (there have been related deaths in these cases).
- More education and information is needed on the possible adverse effects of this type of drinks, as well as their safe use.
- They should not be used by pregnant women or during the breastfeeding period.
- They should not be consumed by people who have high sensitivity to caffeine or to sugar.
- They are contraindicated in people with cardiovascular or neurological conditions.
- They should not be used for sports hydration.
- They should not be mixed with alcohol (highly dangerous).
- They must be accurately labelled.
Due to the composition of this type of drinks and its effects, the WHO suggests that they be called STIMULANT beverages. In their composition (4) we can highlight:
To a lesser extent, but not for that reason any less important, energy drinks also contain the following vitamins:
- Thiamin – Vitamin B1
- Niacin – Vitamin B3
- Pantothenic Acid – Vitamin B5
- Pyridoxine – Vitamin B6
- Ascorbic acid – Vitamin C
The biggest problem of combining these stimulant drinks with alcohol, apart from the Kcals consumed, is that they mask the depressant effects ofethanol , but they continue to maintain the levels of it and its harmful effects on the organism. In such a way that by increasing stamina and reducing fatigue, especially in social situations (work meetings, family, celebrations, etc.), alcohol consumption increases and can lead to alcohol poisoning, and, in extreme cases, cause death.
At Neolife, we are aware of the lack of existing information about this type of drinks and the need to inform about the possible adverse effects when they are consumed in excess, since the results of their intake may be devastating forhealth.
In the May nutrition article we will publish recipes for easy-to-prepare alternative beverages, healthier stimulants, which will help us benefit and improve our daily performance without affecting our health.