In light of the recent caffeine overdose and subsequent death of a 16-year-old boy from South Carolina, I thought it prudent to discuss the dangers of energy drinks. Granted, this boy had a large Mountain Dew and McDonalds’ café latte before his energy drink. But, this is not the only death involving an energy drink. In 2011, a 14-year old girl drank two Monster Energy™ drinks and went into cardiac arrest from the excess caffeine. In 2014, a 16-year-old girl went into cardiac arrest and died after consuming Redbull® and being dehydrated. But, these are just a few of the dozens of cases reported against 5-hour Energy™, Monster, Redbull, and Rockstar over the past decade.
The warning label required on energy drinks states “WARNING: CONTAINS HIGH LEVELS OF CAFFEINE. MAY CAUSE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, HEART ATTACK, CONVULSIONS, OR DEATH.” Unfortunately, many consumers don’t pay attention to the warning, let alone think it will happen to them.
Energy drinks are essentially legalized speed in a can. The amount of stimulants (like caffeine) in an energy drink is about TWICE that of soda. If you compare an energy drink to soda, it’s like comparing gasoline to rocket fuel. So, what is in these energy drinks that could cause you or your loved one harm? Let’s take a glimpse into each…
Excessive caffeine affects blood pressure and heart rate. Too much caffeine can cause irregular heart beat and should never be consumed by people with heart problems. Excessive caffeine can also cause adrenal burnout, insomnia, and dehydration. Additionally, it is an addictive substance potentially causing long‐term health effects.
Just a couple of tablespoons of sugar can suppress the immune system, leaving the body open for sickness and disease. One energy drink is an entire day’s sugar consumption. Sugar over stimulates the nervous system and can lead to adrenal burnout. It also causes a sudden burst of energy followed by a crash, which creates craving for more sugar and can lead to diabetes and immune disorders.
Ephedrine can cause many of the negative effects of caffeine, plus heart palpitations and paresthesia (poor circulation). Ephedrine mixed with other stimulants (like caffeine) can cause heart attack, seizures, stroke, and even mental disorders.
Taurine is an amino acid naturally occurring in food. When present in food, it is combined with other amino acids. In its isolated form, it may be harmful. While beneficial to the body in “food” form, when isolated and mixed with caffeine, it can increase stroke risk.
Guarana is used in other countries like Americans use caffeine and is chemically identical to caffeine. It is a central nervous system stimulant and increases metabolism, which is why it is used for weight loss. It also suppresses appetite. It can cause anxiety, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, nervousness, tremors, sleep disorders and stomach problems. Combined with Ephedrine, it can actually be fatal.
L‐Carnitine is naturally occurring in food and helps the body convert fat to energy. When consumed in natural form, it is typically harmless. It can also be beneficial for people with circulatory, heart or mental disorders. The down side is that it can negatively affect people who have an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism). It is best to have a hormone panel done before taking L‐Carnitine.
Acesulfame K is an artificial sweetener that contains methylene chloride, a known carcinogen (cancer‐causing). It can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental dysfunction, liver and kidney issues.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is made from table sugar combined with chlorine, a known carcinogen (cancer-causing). It can cause gastrointestinal problems, skin irritations, respiratory issues, heart palpitations, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that can cause headaches, dizziness, mood disorders (anxiety, depression), nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, vision disturbances, diarrhea, seizures or convulsions, speech problems, memory loss and fatigue. Additionally, it has been linked to a number of diseases, such as fibromyalgia, lupus and multiple sclerosis