The Scary Truth About Energy Drinks

March 31, 2013
The House of Healing
The Scary Truth About Energy Drinks

The Energy Drink industry is massive and their marketing campaigns are just as big with Red Bull spending 40% of their entire revenue on marketing.  These companies convince you that these drinks are a convenient way of increasing energy and stamina, sharpening alertness, improving concentration and even maximising workouts and training to push you to extreme physical levels.  But what they don’t market is all the side effects of these beverages that could be causing you harm.  These companies main focus is on the vitamins and herbal extracts in these beverages that claim to make you feel invincible.  And as the FDA does not currently regulate these drinks, because they are categorised as dietary supplements the manufacturer does not need to prove their claims of efficacy or safety.  Recently in Australia, the Australian Beverages Council has rejected calls for a ‘tighter regulation’ on energy drinks arguing that Australia is already one of the most heavily regulated markets in the world.  This response by the Australian Beverages Council is part of an ongoing response by the industry concerns regarding energy drinks.  Currently the Australian regulations restrict the amount of caffeine in Australian energy drinks to 80mg for a standard 250mL can.  Even if we do have tighter regulations in Australia, the energy drinks available on our shelves still have potential side effects.  Here are a few of those potentially harmful side effects that you should consider…

The two main ingredients in energy drinks that could be doing you harm are caffeine and sugar.  Research suggests that 500 millilitres of caffeinated energy drinks a day lead to a faster heartbeat and a 10-point jump in systolic blood pressure which is a major risk if you are living with heart disease.  Too much caffeine in your diet can lead to rapid heart rate, interfere with sleep, increase urination as a diuretic, lead to nausea, headaches and anxiety.  It can also lead to muscle tremors from overstimulation of the nervous system and a decrease in bone mass density as it interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.  If irregular, rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure from excess caffeine isn’t enough to get you concerned then consider this:- 
In 2007, a 28-year-old Australian man suffered a cardiac arrest after consuming eight cans of an energy drink over 7 hours.  The drink contained 80 mg of caffeine each and the man had no previous history of chest complaints. 
One of the concerning things about the caffeine contained in these drinks is that their marketing strategy is youth orientated with a prominent presence at sporting events.  66% of energy drink consumers are aged between 13 and 35.  They are packaged in such a way that it is easy for adolescence to have instant access to large amounts of caffeine.  The inappropriate marketing to youth can increase the risk of overdose, abuse and dependence.  A major concern with our adolescence is the mixing of alcohol and energy drinks leading to an increased risk of alcohol injury and dependence.  According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, mixing alcohol and energy drinks may keep people awake for longer, allowing them to consume more alcohol then they ordinarily would.  A 2011 study of about 1,100 university students found those who consumed energy drinks where about 2.5 times more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence then those that did not consume energy drinks. 
 Energy drinks are calorie bombs, containing as much as 8-10 teaspoons of sugar.  This amount of sugar in combination with the caffeine will increase your blood sugar levels and give you an initial energy burst but this is usually followed by a sudden fall in blood sugar levels.  A drop in blood sugar levels can cause that ‘crash’ lethargic tired feeling again, causing ‘hypoglycaemia’ symptoms which are superficially relieved by consuming more sugar.  Hypoglycaemia occurs when the pancreas overreacts to the large amount of sugar in the blood and releases too much insulin.  Overwork on the pancreas can put stress on the pancreas as it eventually fails to produce adequate insulin when blood sugar levels rise.   Aside from the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, excessive sugar intake can lead to obesity and open the gateway for many other chronic medical issues.  Sugar that is ingested and not absorbed can provide a good meal for harmful bacteria, candida and other fungi spores in the intestinal tract. Metabolic issues can arise when you overload your body with excessive amounts of additives and sugar.  Your body may go into overdrive to process this overload and produce stress hormones such as cortisol, to cope with the task. 
 Claims that these beverages can improve cognitive function may be so but in the short term.  Over time these drinks can decrease your ability to function due to the disruption on sleep cycles.  This can lead to sleep deprivation, nervousness, irritability and anxiety.  These symptoms can further increase you dependence on these beverages.   They become highly addictive and can produce mood swings and headaches when you finally realise what is going on and try to quit. 
Many argue that there are health benefits that come with energy drinks due to the natural herbal ingredients.  Ginseng acts on the adrenal glands, giving you energy and endurance, Gingko Biloba enhances memory and relieves stress and Guarana, also a caffeine containing stimulant believed to prevent atherosclerosis and remove lactic acid from your muscles.  While these herbal ingredients can be beneficial to your health after all the commercial processing you may not end up with a standard extract in your beverage that will have any of these health benefits at all.  To add to this argument the sugar and caffeine contained in these drinks can prevent the absorption of any of these nutrients.
Without the FDA regulating it is up to the consumer to be aware of the side effects, especially when these beverages are readily available to anyone – even an 11 year-old child.  One cannot ignore the growing concern about these highly caffeinated beverages.  Researchers warn that the long-term effects are unclear but that certain susceptible people risk dangerous, even life-threatening, effects on blood pressure, heart rate and brain function.  As the potential harmful effects of excessive consumption of energy drinks far outweighs their benefits it is best to avoid them all together and consider this list of natural energy boosters:
Exercise, socialise, eat small frequent meals, avoid high sugar foods, get a good nights sleep or take a power nap, address vitamin and mineral deficiencies, increase your exposure to sunlight, drink plenty of water, and breathe fresh air!
If you are looking for a healthy alternative to kick your energy drink habit they are available.  NingXia Red is a naturally delicious, nutrient dense drink that is high in fibre, protein and vitamins and minerals.  It’s the perfect way to energise, replenish and fortify your body.  This exclusive blend of antioxidant rich super fruits contains only 19 calories per serving and delivers natural low glycaemia energy.  Containing the natural sweetener, stevia extract and wolfberry polysaccharides, it may help support cellular communication without causing blood sugar level spikes.
To find out more about NingXia Red visit:

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