New research puts spotlight on dark side of energy drinks, especially for adolescents

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energy-drink(NaturalHealth365)  Energy drinks are a popular form of pick-me-up for people who do not like coffee or tea and are particularly prevalent in teens and twenty-somethings who often go without needed sleep or who use them to study.  The ingredients in most energy drinks are a combination of massive amounts of caffeine, sugar, taurine, and B Vitamin complexes that promote epinephrine, adrenaline, and other energy-producing excitability responses in the body.  In addition, many young people use these types of drinks to fuel their intense workouts.

The problem with energy drinks is that they contain significantly higher amounts of caffeine than most people are accustomed to using.  Coffee has about 90 mg of caffeine per cup, tea has between 30 mg and 60 mg but energy drinks often start somewhere around 200 mg.  A recent study on the effects of energy drinks in younger populations has brought to light some severe consequences, sometimes deadly, with overconsumption and prolonged use of energy drinks.

We will examine this study and others to determine the risks and how common they might be.  If you or someone you know uses them regularly, there is a significant danger, and we will touch on every point here.

Why are energy drinks so popular?

Coffee and tea consumption have long histories deeply ingrained in many cultures worldwide.  Coffee originated in Ethiopia and has been consumed for hundreds of years, while tea has been consumed in China for thousands of years.  While both beverages have become ubiquitous globally, with diverse cultural practices surrounding their consumption, not everybody enjoys the flavor.  As food science has progressed, the end goal of making foods and drinks hyperpalatable have become significantly more commonplace.  Many young people even identify a part of their personality with the type of energy drink they consume preferentially, which is due in no small part to marketing from the companies.

Energy drinks provide a burst of adrenaline and other stimulants to create a sense of urgency and energetic capacity within consumers.  This is highly prized for people who perform long, intense workouts, gamers who spend hours focusing on their game of choice, and young people looking to study for high school and college.  Not coincidentally, these are the largest target demographics of all energy drinks.

This combination of extreme energy delivery, branding, and accessibility has made energy drinks like Monster and Red Bull ubiquitous in our society.

Meta-analysis reveals detrimental effects of energy drink consumption

Most energy drinks contain a combination of B vitamins, caffeine, guarana, L-carnitine, and sugar.  These ingredients cause an abrupt and extreme burst of energy and typically a commensurate crash a few hours later unless the person drinks another energy drink.

However, the primary issue with energy drinks lies in these formulations, which have been associated with neurodegenerative effects and have been proven to cause heart arrhythmia, liver complications, digestive problems, and, in extreme cases, even premature death when consumed excessively or over prolonged periods.

In the specific study under discussion, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 96 reviews compiling data on energy drink consumption.  This analysis was narrowed down from an initial consideration of approximately 450 studies investigating the effects of energy drinks on various bodily systems.

The findings were categorized based on damage observed across different tissue groups, including dermatological, kidney, heart, brain, liver, and digestive systems, as well as overall health and blood composition.

The meta-analysis revealed significant harm across all these factors due to long-term energy drink consumption, with acute usage also resulting in severe issues akin to bingeing, except for dermatological problems.

Spectrum of organ damage, culminating in cardiac arrest

While the acute and long-term consumption of energy drinks had minimal impact on gynecological and dermatological functioning, significant effects were observed on the kidneys, brain, heart, digestive system, liver, and pancreas.

Liver damage, ranging from prolonged to severe, was prevalent among participants, encompassing conditions such as hepatitis.  Pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, alongside generalized biliary system damage, was also noted.

The neurodegenerative impact was profound in terms of anxiety and especially incidents of psychosis.

Renal damage was significant for hyponatremia, rhabdomyolysis, and generalized kidney damage.

The most alarming findings pertained to cardiac health, with a predominant occurrence of a dangerous arrhythmia and, in some cases, fatalities resulting from cardiac arrest or a persistent arrhythmia.  Additionally, instances of aortic dissection and other life-threatening heart problems were notably documented.

Energy drinks provide no real benefits

While anyone may need a pick-me-up occasionally, natural sources of caffeine like tea and coffee are significantly safer and much easier to measure.  In fact, organic coffee and tea both have health benefits that extend beyond the somewhat protective benefits of small amounts of caffeine.  It does appear that the specific combination of legal stimulants like guarana and massive amounts of caffeine and sugar is strictly harmful, particularly when used in excess in a short time frame or over a long period.

Ultimately, the best way to regain proper energy balance is to eat healthy (organic) foods, get good sleep with proper sleep habits, exercise regularly, and avoid highly processed foods.  Too often, we look for pharmaceuticals or nutritional supplements to help us feel good.  The reality is that we are perfectly capable of regaining good health and energy ourselves if we know where to look and put into practice what we learn.

Sources for this article include:

NIH.gov


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