The Scary Truth About Energy Drinks

by Alan Hewitt on March 18, 2013

If you’re a regular reader of this ezine, you probably do your best to avoid known health risks such as smoking, artificial sweetners, processed foods etc.

Energy drinks are also probably on that list for most people but I wonder how many people know about all the health risks associated with them.

So I’ve researched the issue and unearthed some startling facts about recently discovered health risks.

Here they are…

Heart problems

In recent years, the company that markets 5-Hour Energy has filed about 30 reports of serious injuries associated with its products, including heart attacks.

In 2007, a 28-year-old Australian man suffered cardiac arrest after consuming eight cans of an energy drink, containing 80 mg of caffeine each, over seven hours. The patient did not have a history of chest pain.

Sugar-free energy drinks with caffeine pose an even greater heart attack threat, according to a 2010 Australian study published in the American Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that just one drink caused blood vessels to narrow, even in healthy young adults.

The possible culprit is glucuronolactone, a common sweetener in sugar-free energy drinks. Also, Bisphenol A, or BPA, the chemical used to line most metal drink cans, has also been shown to trigger abnormal heart rhythms in heart cell tests in the lab.

Drinking two cans of an energy drink a day could lead to a dangerous blood pressure reading, according to research.

Doctors there found that 500 milliliters of caffeinated energy drinks a day lead to a faster heartbeat and a 10-point jump in systolic blood pressure. That might not seem like much, but if you’re living with heart disease, it could pose a major risk.

Hospital Visits

Death is the worst side effect linked to energy drinks and shots, but there’s a laundry list of other health problems that could send an energy drink enthusiast to the hospital, too.

A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia today shows 297 people suffered from “caffeine toxicity” from energy drinks between 2004 and 2010.

The study was based on calls to poison information hotlines across the country. More than 128 people were admitted to emergency departments after consuming the caffeine-laden drinks.

Medical Director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre Dr Naren Gunja and co-author Jared Brown found the most common systems were heart palpitations, agitation, tremors and gastrointestinal upset.


Headaches are one of the most common side effects that energy drink consumers complain of, according to the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

Researchers peg the high caffeine and excess sugar, not the herbal blends, as the cause of the head pain attributed to consumption of the beverages.

A Nutritional Journal analysis found more than 20 percent of users report headaches, with about 30 percent also suffering from jolt-and-crash episodes as a side effect.

The risk of miscarriage

A 2006 study of more than 1,000 pregnant women found that those who consumed more than 200 mg of caffeine per day were about twice as likely to have a miscarriage compared with pregnant women who did not drink caffeine.

An increased risk of alcohol injury and dependence

Studies suggest that combining alcohol and energy drinks can be dangerous.

Although caffeine is a stimulant, research suggests it does not “counteract” the sedating effects of alcohol.

There is concern that mixing alcohol and energy drinks may keep people awake for a longer period of time, allowing them to consume more alcohol than they ordinarily would, according to an editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A 2011 study of about 1,100 university students found those who downed energy drinks frequently were about 2.5 times more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence than those who did not consume energy drinks.

The link may be due to the practice of mixing alcohol and energy drinks, or drinking caffeine to recover from a hangover, according to the JAMA editorial. It could also be that caffeine’s effects on the brain play a role in addiction, the editorial says.

Risk of drug abuse

Another study of 1,060 students found that energy drink consumption in the second year of university was associated with an increased risk of prescription drug abuse (use of stimulants or prescription painkillers without a prescription) in the third year of university.

Impaired cognition

Although some students rely on energy drinks to pull all-nighters to study for exams, there’s some evidence that the excessive levels of caffeine in the drinks impair cognition.

A 2010 study found that drinking moderate amounts of caffeine, about 40 mg, improved performance on a test of reaction time, but drinking higher amounts — equivalent to the levels found in a (250 ml) can of Red Bull, or 80 mg — worsened performance on the reaction test.

If you have teens, here’s some tips that may help you wean them off them.

* Talk to your teens about the effects of caffeine and the contents of energy drinks as per the information in this article. Encourage them to pay attention to their caffeine intake, and avoid caffeinated beverages after 6 p.m. You also might want to avoid or limit caffeinated drinks in the house.

* Discuss and demonstrate eating a healthy, balanced diet, with less fast food and more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.

* Limit the hours of screen time, especially closer to bedtime when the brain should be winding down before sleeping. Think twice about having a TV in your teen’s bedroom if they’re having any sleep issues.

* Teach your teens healthy sleep habits. It’s recommended that teens get nine hours of sleep on school nights. Good time management skills can help kids get work completed and leave enough time for adequate rest.


This industry is massive and the marketing of these drinks is intense. The company that makes Red Bull, for example, spend 40% of their entire revenue on marketing which is a much, much bigger proportion than most companies.

They are convincing our young people that it “gives them wings” but what it really does is ruin their health.

I hope to bring you a healthy alternative to these drinks in the next couple of weeks so look out for that.

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