Our fast-paced, stressful lives often leave us wishing for extra hours in the day. By lunchtime, we’re out of steam and need a little pick-me-up. Hence the rise of the energy drink industry. But before you reach for that Red Bull, consider this.
Energy drinks are usually packaged like soda, and have a soda-like taste, but their distinction from soda lies in the extra ingredients. The promised “heightened mental awareness” from energy drinks is largely due to caffeine content, which can vary tremendously. According to the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, energy drink caffeine content generally ranges from 50 mg to a mind-blowing, perhaps literally, 505 mg per can or bottle!
Both the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and University of Massachusetts Department of Emergency Medicine warn that too much caffeine can raise blood pressure, cause headaches and migraines, aggravate psychiatric conditions, and induce reliance. And if those side effects aren’t reason enough for you to quit, here are five more good ones:
1. Increased Stress and Anxiety – some energy drinks have actually been found to contain more caffeine than what is advertised on their labels. Too much caffeine can cause jitters, chronic stress and anxiety. A study out of Perth, Australia found that even just one 250ml energy drink can increase anxiety in young men.
2. Sugar Content – energy drinks typically have a lot of sugar, with some containing an average 15 teaspoons per serving! Aside from getting the dreaded sugar crash, sugar can leave you dehydrated, suppress your immune system, increase inflammation and lead to tooth decay and weight gain. The sugar overload can eventually wear out the insulin producing cells of the pancreas, which leads to type 2 diabetes.
3. Insomnia – Energy drinks do a good job of keeping people awake, but when abused, they can cause you to miss sleep all together. You may have difficulty falling sleep and staying asleep. Lack of sleep causes impaired functioning and it can be dangerous to drive or perform other concentration heavy tasks.
4. Adrenal Fatigue – Sugar and caffeine both provide temporary stimulation but can also result in long-term energy loss by stressing the adrenal glands and causing adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Overstimulation causes the adrenals to make extra amounts of those stress hormones. Eventually, the adrenals become depleted and you’re left with severe fatigue.
5. Cardiac Arrest – According to a study published in late 2013, caffeinated energy drinks can increase the heart’s contraction rates in healthy people. While the potential health risks of this effect are still not known, researchers said the findings suggest people who have cardiac arrhythmia should avoid these drinks because arrhythmia could be triggered by changes to the heart’s contraction rates.