Are energy drinks safe? Yes and No. Let me explain. It's probably not a big deal for a healthy person to have one energy drink. In fact, the caffeine may even improve your ability to focus at work, while driving, and may improve exercise endurance. Another possible benefit is the presence of taurine in many energy drinks. I have heard several friends say that taurine is bad for you, but after reviewing the evidence I'm finding taurine may actually have a few important benefits. More research is needed, but taurine may help regulate blood pressure, act as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent according to recent research published inAtherosclerosis
. It would seem taurine has the potential to help prevent heart disease. Another recent paper in theEuropean Journal of Nutrition
reports having higher levels of serum taurine may is associated with lower risk of diabetes and hypertension. However, there are several potential pitfalls. Our first concern is that energy drinks and their ingredients are largely unstudied and unregulated.
Many of the energy drinks that were recently reviewed by consumer labs were poorly labeled for content of caffeine and b-vitamins. In fact, Red Bull was the only energy drink that contained the listed amount of B vitamins and clearly and accurately listed its caffeine content, which is 80 mg per 8.4 oz can- an amount similar to that of the average cup of coffee. Several energy drinks such as Monster and 5-Hour Energy contained much more caffeine. 5-Hour energy had 207.5 mg of caffeine in a 1.93 ounce bottle, however claims to have about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Several Monster varieties and Berry 5-Hour energy also had over 200mg of caffeine, the equivalent of 2-3 strong cups of coffee. Energy drinks were a possible cause in 21,000 emergency room visits in 2011 alone for symptoms such as heart palpitations, seizures, and chest pain. The FDA reports that at least 15 deaths have been related to energy drinks. Several energy drink brands contained excessive amounts of niacin
that can cause "niacin flush", a condition characterized by flushing of the skin, including reddening, burning, tingling, itching, and pain. Other possible side effects of excessive niacin include liver damage, rapid heartbeat, nausea and vomiting. Instead oftaurine
consumers should probably be worried aboutL-Carnitine
, an ingredient in many energy drinks. L-Carnitine may cause cardiovascular disease in many people. Consuming drinks with L-Carnitine may foster the growth of organisms in the gut that can eventually promote atherosclerosis. Children and Energy Drinks:
According to a recent article inPediatrics
30-50% of children consume energy drinks. High and unregulated amounts of caffeine can have serious adverse effects, especially when kids have certain conditions such as: seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, mood or behavioral disorders, or take certain medications. 46% of reported energy drink overdoses occur in people under the age of 19. Energy Drinks and Alcohol:
Caffeine and alcohol are a dangerous combination- they mask the effects of each other. A person having both caffeine and alcohol will likely feel alert, but still be impaired. Furthermore, they are more likely to binge drink, be taken advantage sexually, take advantage of someone sexually and ride with a driver under the influence of alcohol according the Center for Disease Control. Bottom Line: Energy drinks may help you stay alert and slightly improve exercise endurance. Some energy drinks contain taurine, which may even be good for you. For most healthy people it is probably safe to have one energy drink. However, be aware some brands contain the same amount of caffeine as 2-3 cups of coffee, excessive amounts of niacin and other b vitamins, and a potentially dangerous substance such as L-Carnitine. Be very careful mixing caffeine with alcohol or serving to children.
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