The Dangers of Energy Drinks

Whether used for a midday boost, an all-night study aid, enhance athletic performance, or recreational consumption with alcohol, “energy drinks” or “energy shots” pose serious risks to its many users and is increasingly a source of concern being raised in the public arena.

Hospitals across the United States are reporting increased numbers of emergency room visits linked to the consumption of energy drinks. In 2009, over 113,000 people were taken to hospitals due to complications from energy drinks, ten times the number reported in 2005, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to Dr. Robert Crupi, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Flushing Hospital, “one of the biggest risks associated with these products is their potential effect on the heart. With products containing 35 mg of caffeine per ounce, energy drinks can possess nearly three times the caffeine content found in a cup of coffee. The consequences of ingesting such large amounts of caffeine include elevated blood pressure, accelerated heart rate and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).” In addition, energy drinks are loaded with sugar and taurine, an amino acid, also know to boost heart rate.

Even though most agree that consuming energy drinks in moderation is unlikely to pose a medical risk in healthy individuals, medical professionals do urge individuals with existing heart disease to avoid energy drinks. Persons with a history of hypertension or heart arrhythmia are also warned to stay away from these beverages.

It is also recommended that individuals not combine energy drinks with alcohol.  Mixing caffeine (a stimulant) with alcohol (a depressant) can make it more difficult for individuals to gauge their level of impairment. Believing the caffeine has sobered them up, those who mix alcohol and energy drinks may experience “wide awake impairment,” a feeling of increased alertness associated with both impaired judgment and reflexes.

The marketing of energy drinks has sparked some controversy. They have been promoted to provide a quick boost of energy to athletes looking to increase their performance. Dr. Crupi adds “The problem with this idea is, exercise already increases heart rate and blood pressure. Adding a boost of caffeine only puts unnecessary strain on the heart.  In addition, caffeine is a known diuretic, causing athletes to lose water when they should be trying to stay hydrated”.

What many do not realize is that energy drinks are considered dietary supplements, and therefore, are not regulated by the FDA in the same manner as soda or other drinks that contain caffeine. In fact, the manufacturers of these products often do not disclose the amount of caffeine they contain. Many lawmakers are now calling for increased regulations for the energy drink industry, including improved labeling disclosures.

Dr. Crupi provides this tip to individuals looking for an alternative to energy drinks, “If you eat healthy, exercise daily and sleep between seven and eight hours every night, you will naturally have more energy.”



All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.