A new review of current scientific knowledge on energy drinks finds their advertised short-term benefits can be outweighed by serious health risks, which include risk-seeking behavior, mental health problems, increased blood pressure, obesity and kidney damage.
The new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, also highlights the worrying trend of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The study authors recommend restricted sales to children and adolescents and setting evidence-based caffeine limits.
As energy drink consumption continues to grow worldwide, there is a need to thoroughly examine their advertised benefits, nutritional content and any negative effects on public health.
The researchers stated that the evidence suggests energy drinks are harmful to health and should be limited through stringent regulation by restricting their sales to children and adolescents, as well as setting an evidence-based upper limit on the amount of caffeine.
What’s in energy drinks?
Most energy drinks consist of similar ingredients – water, sugar, caffeine, certain vitamins, minerals and stimulants such as guarana, taurine and ginseng. Some can contain up to 100 mg caffeine per fluid ounce, eight times more than a regular coffee at 12 mg. A moderate daily caffeine intake of up to 400 mg is recommended for adults, but little research exists on tolerable levels for adolescents and children.
The $10 billion per year industry (in the U.S) often markets energy drinks as a healthy beverage that people can consume to improve energy, stamina, athletic performance and concentration. However, the new review shows there are important health consequences, and little is known about many of their stimulants including guarana and taurine.
Health risks of energy drinks
The health risks associated with energy drinks are mostly attributed to their high sugar and caffeine levels. They range from risk-seeking behavior, such as substance misuse and aggression, mental health problems in the form of anxiety and stress, to increased blood pressure, obesity, kidney damage, fatigue, stomachaches and irritation.
The review also highlights another concern: Mixing energy drinks with alcohol. Individuals who do this consume more alcohol than if they were drinking alcohol alone. It’s thought energy drinks can mask the signs of alcohol inebriation, enabling an individual to consume more, increasing the likelihood of dehydration and alcohol poisoning.
The researchers hope that by highlighting the current findings about the health consequences of energy drinks, policy and interventions can be put in place to reduce negative effects on public health.
The research team concludes that there is currently enough evidence to suggest that the negative health consequences of drinking energy drinks outweigh any potential short-term benefits.
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