Energy Drinks: Addiction and other Health Risks

One of the more popular Energy Drinks in the world.
One of the more popular Energy Drinks in the world.

Introduction

Do you ever need more energy? Chances are, most people would say yes. Jobs today require more focus and attention, and you can't do those things if you are tired. Getting more sleep isn't possible for some people, as many have kids or multiple jobs, so what's the solution? Energy Drinks.

Millions of people have turned to energy drinks to help them through the day. They are relatively cheap, come in as many flavors as you like, and give you energy. But is there a darker side to these drinks?

Many doctors have called out against the regular use of energy drinks, especially among kids and teens, who are still developing both physically and mentally. Surveys suggest that as many as 50% of teenagers drink energy drinks regularly for a multitude of reasons, but could some of the ingredients damage their bodies in both the short term and the long term?

First off, in order to better understand these questions, we have to ask another one. What is an energy drink?

What Is An Energy Drink?

An Energy Drink, such as those made by Red Bull or Monster, are simply flavored drinks with a large amount of caffeine and other additives that give the user a temporary boost of energy. The amount of caffeine and additives vary on the brand and the type of drink that is being sold, but generally, the result is the same. The standard size is 16 ounces, but of course, there are larger sizes as well.

"Energy Shots" are becoming more popular, due to the fact that you don't need to drink so much fluid to get the same amount of energy that you would from a normal energy drink. They can essentially be thought of as a concentrated energy drink.

What's In An Energy Drink?

Energy Drinks are extremely diverse, with almost any kind of flavor available. Just take a look in the beverage section of your local gas station and see. Despite this, the ingredients for each stay about the same, with only the ones dealing with flavors change. For this example, we will use the all famous original green Monster Energy Drink.

Source

At a glance, the ingredients look rather healthy. It has lots of vitamins, not a whole lot of calories or sugar, and a little bit of sodium. It also lists a few more things which you may not be familiar with.

Taurine, listed underneath sodium, is a natural chemical that is found in meat and seafood. There is actually quite a bit in your intestines, and even more in bile. The amount listed on the can is 1000mg, but since there are 2 servings per can, you have to double it to 2000 mg. This may sound like a huge amount, but this quantity poses no threat to the body.

Next is Ginseng, listed on the can as Panax Ginseng. This is an herb that grows in the northern hemisphere, and there are a few different species of it. It was used in Chinese medicine as a relaxant, although it doesn't have a large effect as the amount on the can (400mg) isn't enough to cause any real changes.

Below is what Monster calls the Energy Blend, which consists of several different ingredients. L-Carnitine belongs to a rather complicated sounding group of chemicals, and is sold in a few places as a vitamin supplement, although it's still being researched. Glucose is merely sugar, and most people are familiar with caffeine. The next ingredient is Guarana, which is a plant from South America. It's seeds contain about twice as much caffeine compared to the coffee bean. Inositol, like Carnitine, is another chemical being researched. Glucuronolactone is a important component in connective tissues and is sold as a vitamin supplement. And last but not least, Maltodextrin is quite simply a thickener.

So What Makes It So Dangerous?

After reading through the ingredients, there doesn't seem to be any inherent danger, and there isn't, if you consume them only once in a while. The real danger is when you start to drink them more than once a day, every day.

Caffeine is the real danger in this case. A typical cup of coffee may contain around 100 mg of caffeine. The stronger options may have closer to 200 mg of caffeine. Doctors generally agree that if you consume less than 250 - 300 mg a day, you will avoid the symptoms of what psychologists call Caffeinism. Irritability, dependency, heart palpitations, and other problems can occur if you aren't careful about watching how much you take in.

If you aren't careful, over time, you will see the symptoms appear and start to get more advanced. Drinking one or two when you really need the energy may help, but if you just drink them to drink them, dependencies can form. Addiction to caffeine is no hypothetical situation, and it has it's own set of withdrawal symptoms just like cigarettes or alcohol, although they aren't as serious. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, insomnia, pain in various parts of the body, and the inability to concentrate.


Pure, powdered caffeine, this is enough to kill you a couple times over.
Pure, powdered caffeine, this is enough to kill you a couple times over.

How Many Can You Drink?

So what is the healthy limit for energy drinks? That depends a lot on you. For example, you will handle a higher caffeine intake better if you weigh more and are active and drink other fluids, like water.

However, people with certain medical conditions should not drink very many at all. I have heart palpitations with a zero-caffeine intake, just drinking a Mountain Dew cause problems. Others may take drugs that when combined with a large amount of caffeine, can require hospitalization. You must be knowledgeable enough to know your situation.

In the long run, you should not consume energy drinks every day. You shouldn't even drink more than one a day. It won't kill you, but it puts extra stress on your heart and liver, and it will accumulate over time.

Can It Kill You?

The answer to that question is probably not. Unless you have some extreme medical condition, or you are taking it with other stimulants, you won't die. But if you drink them consistently, day after day, then the stress put on your heart might cause heart-related issues later in life. Many scientists are still unsure of the effects because energy drinks are a fairly recent thing, and we won't know till later in the future to see what they really do.

More recently, people have been combining both alcohol and caffeine together into one drink. This produces a very dangerous combination, since the caffeine's stimulant effects combat the depressant effects of the alcohol, and can make it difficult to tell just how drunk you are. This also puts a tremendous amount of strain on your liver and heart. Death's and hospitalizations have occurred when these are combined, and the FDA has already taken action against manufactures of these drinks.

On a funnier note, would you like to know how many Red Bull's it would take to kill you? Or Monsters? This website, called EnergyFiend, will tell you how much you would have to take in order to put you down. Just enter the kind of drink and your weight, and it'll give you an estimate.

So, What's The End Result?

In summary, taking too many energy drinks results in a higher caffeine intake, and constant use can cause a whole range of issues. Kids and teens should not drink them more than once a day, they shouldn't even drink them more than once every few days. Adults are justified in many cases, I know people who may not have made it home if they didn't drink one, but they still don't drink them every day. If you already have a lot of energy, and you drink them anyways, you may be getting energy you don't need. Dependance is definitely a risk, and you don't want to be addicted to them. There are much more healthy ways of gaining energy that don't require artificial stimulants.

Did I miss something, or do you have anything you would like to say? Please voice your ideas down in the comment section, and I'll do my best to answer! Have a nice day!

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