Energy drinks side effects need to be discussed to curb their popularity among the younger generation.
Having appeared on the beverage market just about two decades back, energy drinks worth more than $9 billion were sold in the US alone in 2011. These drinks are gaining popularity, particularly among youngsters.
Read on to know about the negative effects of energy drinks.
Energy Drinks Side Effects
Call me a ‘dinosaur’ (as my teenaged son does) or whatever, I had not heard of these ‘energy drinks till a few months back. And when he did tell me how his friends and classmates were using cans of them daily to help them study till late at night, I was taken aback.
Not knowing what they were all about, I asked him not to have any of such %#*$# till I had checked the contents for myself. The very next day he tugged me along to the market, to show me that they were completely free of alcohol.
I checked out the ingredients in nearly 4-5 leading brands of such energy drinks.
What I did see was outright shocking!
My son was right.
ABSOLUTELY NO ALCOHOL!
But what about the EXTREMELY high caffeine content?
The parents of all the kids who were allowing their kids to guzzle down cans of such chemical laced drinks had to be idiots, I was sure.
I explained things to my son and I thank my stars that he was able to see the things in the right perspective. I managed to convince him that a cup of strong coffee at night would help him stay awake and more alert too. And promised him a cup of wonderful espresso every night till the exams were over.
The whole thing was forgotten.
Till I read a few days back about the ongoing controversy regarding 5 hour energy drink.
To make sure that I was not over reacting, I talked to our team of experts which includes eminent nutritionists. Besides that, I talked to a leading pediatrician to discuss the side effects of energy drinks.
Side Effects of Energy Drinks
Though these so called energy drinks are completely alcohol free, they do contain supplements and stimulants due to which most brands carry some sort of warning on the label, advising all of us not to have more than the recommended serving.
The following are some of the ingredients found in more or less all leading of these drinks I could find on the supermarket shelves, and the side effects associated with them.
This is the main ingredient in any energy drink. This is the stimulant which ‘helps’ you stay awake and gives you that instant energy.
Most ‘smart’ manufacturers mention it by the name of ‘Guarana’ or ‘Green tea extract’ or ‘Coffee extract’ on the food label to befool unsuspecting customers.
While it is true that caffeine is found in tea, green tea and coffee as well, the concentration of caffeine in these energy drinks is much higher due to which one should be extremely careful about deciding to guzzle down a can of it.
It is important here to point out that a normal cup of really strong coffee is not likely to contain more than 100 mg of caffeine but a can of energy drink can contain upto 500 mg of it!!!
These are some of the side effects which caffeine is known to produce:
- Severe allergic reactions
- Respiratory problems
- Severe fatigue as the caffeine gets flushed out of the system
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia/ sleeplessness
Energy drinks containing large amounts of caffeine are coming under a lot of flak from worried parents and public health officials.
Tama Sawyer, Director at the Poison Control Center, Kansas, shares the concern, “The kids are drinking these like sodas. It’s becoming part of their daily routine. And it’s stressing the heart out every time they are doing it. Many people who use energy drinks are in their teens and 20s, and they don’t think they are in danger until something happens, and then they go to the emergency room.”
You may say I’m over reacting now. What is the harm in consuming sugar?
The problem again is not the PRESENCE of sugar but the extremely high content of it.
Again, I saw some creative names meant to betray people. Like ‘Fructose’, ‘Glucose’ or ‘Natural cane juice’. The chances are that even if you did check the ingredients before you picked up a can of such energy drinks, you could have been led astray by the use of clever words like these.
The extremely high sugar content in these energy drinks can have the following side effects:
- Causing obesity
- Causing Type II diabetes
- Causing ‘Insulin spikes’. The high sugar content gives you an instant shot of energy and you feel charged up and active as long as that artificial high lasts. As the sugar level in your blood drops after a few hours, you get a crash like feeling and feel ‘low’. This, in most of the case, becomes reason enough to crave for another can of the same drink. More often than not, it becomes an addiction.
This Chinese herb is known to possess amazing health benefits and is widely used in medicines across the world. Again, consuming more of it than the recommended dosage can trigger off the following reactions:
- Sleeplessness (This explains why kids have huge amounts of these drinks to ‘help’ them stay awake).
- Nose bleeding
- High/ low blood pressure
4. Artificial Sweeteners
Some savvy manufacturers sure do know how to hit the right chord with the people. Knowing that the current crop of youngsters (who are the primary target of energy drink manufacturers) are extremely calorie conscious, some of them like Red Bull, NOS, Amp, Crunk and Rockstar have come up with ‘sugar free’ energy drinks.
Now, it is obvious that a drink that tastes sweet without sugar contains artificial sweeteners.
There is no doubt that sugar free options help you cut down on extra calories, but have you imagined the price you are going to pay for avoiding those calories in the long run?
These are some of the side effects associated with the long term use of artificial sweeteners which are present in these drinks in huge quantities, depending upon the type of sweetener used:
- Skin allergies
- Urinary problems
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
5. Other stimulants
Most energy drinks use one or more of the following stimulants in addition to high doses of caffeine:
- Ginkgo biloba
Now with so many stimulants present in a drink you are consuming mindlessly, it is obvious that you will get that sudden rush of energy.
Negative Effects of Energy Drinks
Being fair to energy drinks, it would not be wrong to say that inspite of the stimulants, artificial sweeteners and stimulants they contain in excessive quantities, most short term side effects associated with energy drinks are not a major cause of concern. Most of these side effects wear away with time, IF you do not get addicted to them!
No conclusive evidence has been found about the long term side effects of energy drinks because they simply have not been around for long enough.
The Australian Poisons Center has gathered some significant data over the last seven years from the calls received by them from distressed parents.
These are some of the energy drinks side effects associated with excessive consumption:
- Tremors/ shaking
- Numbing of skin or getting that tingling feeling
- Respiratory disorders
- Chest pain
- Digestive disorders
This is probably because there is low awareness about the negative effects of energy drinks.
If you have been drinking too many of these just to get some instant energy, do not forget that there are better ways of boosting up your energy level.
Try these simple and time tested tips:
- Get adequate sleep. Read this to know the Top 6 symptoms of not getting enough sleep.
- Eat healthy. Include lots of green fruits and veggies in your diet. How to get your kid to eat green veggies and fruits is every mother’s nightmare. Read this to know how you can do that.
- Exercise regularly, even if you are not keen to lose weight or add muscle. It helps you in more ways than one.
- Drink enough water. Insufficient fluid intake is the leading cause of fatigue and tiredness. Here is a list of best hydrating foods.
While there is no harm in having an occasional can of your favorite energy drink, you could have to pay a heavy price for your wrong choices if you start using these drinks as a replacement for water.
Have them in moderation (if you must) to avoid energy drinks side effects!