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Energy Drinks

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks are beverages which contain large doses of caffeine and other legal stimulants such as guarana and ginseng. The amount of caffeine in an energy drink can range from 6 milligrams to over 500 milligrams per serving. This compares to 34 milligrams in Coca-Cola and 54 milligrams in Mountain Dew. For more information on caffeine content of energy drinks and similar products, click here.  If a drink advertises no caffeine, the “energy” typically comes from guarana and other stimulants, very similar to caffeine or actually containing derivatives of caffeine.


Short term effects

Individual responses to caffeine vary, and these drinks should be consumed with caution because of how concentrated and potent they are. Energy drinks' stimulating properties can increase heart rate (sometimes to the point of palpitations) and blood pressure, lead to nausea and vomiting, cause convulsions, disturb sleep patterns or cause restlessness, anxiety, or agitation, and, in some cases, even death.

Additionally, energy drinks should not be used while exercising as the combination of fluid loss from sweating and the diuretic (water expelling) effect of the caffeine can leave you severely dehydrated.


Long term effects

Research has indicated that the health risks associated with energy drink consumption are primarily related to their caffeine content.

Potential risks associated with long-term energy drink consumption include:

  • type 2 diabetes – as high consumption of caffeine reduces insulin sensitivity
  • late miscarriages, low birthweight and stillbirths in people who are pregnant
  • neurological and cardiovascular system effects in children and adolescents
  • sensation-seeking behaviour
  • poor dental health

Energy drinks also contain a variety of other ingredients, such as guarana, the effect of long-term regular consumption of the combination of the substances in energy drinks is unknown.


Energy drinks and alcohol

Energy drinks are occasionally used as mixers with alcohol. This combination carries a number of potential dangers:

  • Since energy drinks are stimulants and alcohol is a depressant, the combination of effects may be dangerous. The stimulant effects of caffeine can mask how intoxicated you are and prevent you from realizing how much alcohol you have consumed. Fatigue is one of the ways the body normally tells someone that they've had enough to drink. The stimulant effect of caffeine can make a person feel less tired, thus, give them the impression they are not impaired. No matter how alert you feel, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the same as it would be without the energy drink. In fact, research has found that people drink more and have higher BACs when they combine alcohol and caffeine.

  • Additionally, both energy drinks and alcohol are diuretics (cause water expulsion or loss). Dehydration can hinder your body's ability to metabolize alcohol and will increase the toxicity, and therefore the hangover, the next day.

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