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Are Energy Drinks Bad for You?
Posted By: GHCHealth [Send E-Mail]
Date: Wednesday, 19-Apr-2017 11:26:13
Energy drinks are popular among gamers, students, athletes, professionals, and anyone who has to drive overnight from Milwaukee to St. Louis. They’re big business, too. Americans spent $12.5 billion on energy drinks in 2012. Market experts predict that number to climb to $21.5 billion in 2017. It’s clear that these drinks are only growing in popularity. With so many people guzzling them down every day, can energy drinks really be that bad? The short answer is yes.
Energy drinks can be devastating for your health. They contribute to heart problems, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, insomnia, and a host of other health risks. In some rare cases, energy drinks have even proved fatal.
A Growing Public Health Concern
It’s not just teens who are affected. In 2015, 28-year-old Martin Bowling suffered a heart attack after consuming eight energy drinks at a pub. Bowling was rushed to a hospital and survived. He had been spending $150 a week on energy drinks.
Even popular athletes can succumb to the toxicity of energy drinks. In 2003, professional wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was hospitalized with severe heart palpitations. He believes that his then habit of consuming 3-5 energy drinks every day was a primary cause of the health crisis.
“I think I’m dying, dying for sure,” Austin recalls of the event. “My heart’s beating so hard it feels like it’s going to crack a rib jumping out of my chest. My heart might be doing 160 or 180 beats per minute. My legs are shaking and I can’t make them stop. I’m sure I’m having a heart attack.”
Between 2004 and 2014, energy drinks have officially been a factor in at least 34 deaths. Unofficially, perhaps many more. Caffeine deaths are often attributable to other factors and may be severely underreported and undiagnosed. Some doctors suspect that the actual number could be much higher. Thousands of people have been hospitalized with symptoms of energy drink overdose, including insomnia, anxiety, convulsions, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular complications. The wings that energy drinks give you might just come with a harp and halo.
How Your Body Reacts to Energy Drinks
Energy drink manufacturers maintain that their products are safe when consumed in recommended amounts. Do you know what the maximum recommended intake is? For most brands, it’s two or three cans per day. For some, it’s only one.
These warnings are easy to miss. Manufacturers usually hide them in small print on the back of the can with the other information that few people bother to read—that’s if the warning is on there at all. Make no mistake, beverage companies want you to drink as much of their product as possible.
There are two main health dangers of energy drinks—neurological and cardiological. In other words, your nervous system and your heart. These problems are caused by the very same ingredients that make you feel energized—staggeringly high levels of caffeine and sugar.
Energy Drinks Are High in Sugar
Many companies have sugar or calorie-free versions of their product, but what are they using to replace sugar? Artificial sweeteners like aspartame may be even worse for your health. They can interfere with your gut biome, damage your metabolism, encourage obesity, and contribute to diabetes.[13, 14,15]
Energy Drinks Are a Source of Caffeine
Energy Drinks and Children
Unlike cigarettes and alcohol, there are usually no age restrictions when purchasing energy drinks in the U.S. Other countries have wised up. In Sweden, for example, most energy drinks can only be sold in pharmacies and selling to children is banned. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that energy drinks have a “proven negative effect on children.” The bottom line is simple—children should never consume energy drinks.
Energy Drinks and Alcohol
I know that some people might think this sounds like a pretty good thing. You get to party longer, right? Well, that’s what energy drink marketers want you to think.
Caffeine doesn’t change your actual blood alcohol level, just your perception of it. That means that as you drink more to hit your buzz, all the usual dangers of drinking are magnified. One study found that people who mixed alcohol and energy drinks were more than twice as likely to drive drunk and far more likely to be a passenger in a car with a drunk driver. As you feel the need to drink more to feel the same high you’re used to, your risk of alcohol poisoning also increases. If all that isn’t enough, your hangover will be worse, too.
A few years ago, energy drink companies were eager to capitalize on a potential new revenue stream. They started selling pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks. The FDA warned consumers to avoid these dangerous drinks and sent warning letters to energy drink companies calling the concoctions a public health threat. Pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks quickly disappeared from U.S. store shelves soon after. That won’t stop you from ordering a mixed energy drink in a bar or mixing your own, but I strongly caution against it.
The Effect of Energy Drinks on Athletic Performance
Our bodies quickly build up a tolerance to substances like caffeine and sugar, and prolonged overuse tends to have undesirable side effects. Caffeine reactions frequently include bowel instability, mood swings, and anxiety. With sugar, it’s weight gain and diabetes. Both can cause insomnia and other sleep disorders. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that energy drinks significantly increased insomnia and anxiety in athletes.
Aluminum: A Hidden Toxin
High levels of aluminum can cause disorders in the brain, bones, and nervous system including confusion, muscle weakness, brittle bones, and seizures. In children, aluminum toxicity can impair mental and physical development.
Mixing your own fresh beverages at home is the best thing you can do to quench your thirst, but I understand that that’s not always practical. If you must buy pre-packaged drinks, only buy those in glass containers.
Energy Drink Alternatives
Black and Green Tea
This mentality is pure self-destructive madness. You need sleep. No energy-boosting product is a substitute. Caffeine doesn’t give you energy; it fools your body into not noticing how tired it is. All you’re doing is biding a little extra time that you’ll pay for later.
What’s your opinion about energy drinks? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and experiences with us