Energy Drinks and Health

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So, an interesting and not so funny thing happened to me recently…I was feeling a little run down one morning, so before going to the office at 8:00 a.m., I decided to stop at the convenience store and get something for a “pick-me-up”. There it was, staring at me through the window of the drink cooler…an energy drink, the name of which isn’t important. What is important are the ingredients, which are caffeine, guarana, and ginseng, which are all stimulants, along with a lot of sugar and B-vitamins. I didn’t feel like drinking coffee, so I thought what the heck. I bought the 16 ounce can and swigged it down. It did give me energy, no doubt…for a few hours I felt reinvigorated. However, after that, I started to feel a bit edgy and light headed as well, so I decided to check my blood pressure. In my lifetime, I have never had high blood pressure, and mine hovers in the 120’s over the 80’s normally. This time, I was shocked…it read 143 over 95 which is considered high blood pressure, but with a normal resting pulse rate! Eventually, it dropped to a normal level, but after my initial shock wore off as well, I decided to do a little research to determine if that energy drink had anything to do with the rise in my blood pressure.

What I found in my research was eye-opening. There has been several studies done on the effects of energy drinks on blood pressure on healthy people between teenage years and middle age, which shows significant increases in blood pressure and hormone levels of norepinephrine, which is responsible for increase in heart rate. In addition, the amount of Emergency Room visits involving the consumption of energy drinks have risen sharply as well, which is well documented ever since the energy drink market was introduced and rose in popularity about 10 years ago or so. This has been such an issue that there has been talk of making it illegal for minors to drink energy drinks in some states.

Even in other countries, they are taking notice. For example, in a recent article by the British publication The Guardian, it stated that ” The sale of energy drinks to children under 16 should be banned following studies linking them to a range of health complaints and risky behaviours.”

According to this particular article, it was stated that worldwide, there was evidence on energy drinks linking them to headaches, stomach aches and sleep problems, while emergency department visits associated with their consumption in the US doubled between 2007 and 2011. This report was published by the Food Research Collaboration, an initiative of the Centre for Food Policy at City University, London England. It was also noted that energy drinks could be associated with behaviors such as binge drinking and drug use .Sales of energy drinks in the UK increased by 155% between 2006 and 2014, from 235 to 600 million litres.

The paper, written by Dr Shelina Visram from Durham University and Kawther Hashem from the health charity Action on Sugar, says consumption among children globally is growing, with the 10- to 14-year-old group expected to increase its intake by 11% over the five years to 2019.

A survey involving 16 European countries including the UK found that 68% of 11 to 18-year-olds and 18% of children aged 10 and under consume energy drinks, with 11% of the older group and 12% of children drinking at least a liter in a single session. A single can of popular brands on the market can contain around 160mg of caffeine, while the European Food Safety Authority recommends an intake of no more than 105mg of caffeine per day for an average 11-year-old. The report proposes legislation banning the sale of energy drinks to under-16s and a ban on marketing targeted at children.

It appears that the popularity of energy drinks keeps increasing overall, and is pretty much here to stay. However, it is definitely important that the public is made aware of the fact that these drinks are more potent than a lot of people realize, and by regular consumption, or even one session of intake could create an acute reaction that could even cause a trip to the ER… something that drinking the occasional latte at the local coffee shop wouldn’t. Be careful!

Dr. Charles Donofrio, D.C.

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