Our cravings for caffeine are crazier than ever, but there are some very real risks associated with energy drinks. A study published in the journal Frontiers shows that any short-term benefits of energy drinks are far outweighed by the risks to mental and physical health. No matter how busy you are, a cup of coffee is a much better idea.
"We summarize the consequences of energy drink consumption, which include heart, kidney, and dental problems, as well as risk-seeking behavior and poor mental health," says Dr. Josiemer Mattei, co-author of the study. These health risks are all associated with any caffeinated, sugary beverage that involves stimulants like taurine, guarana, and ginseng. These are the ingredients typically included in energy drinks like Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar.
The drinks are also typically infused with vitamins and minerals, which could trick the consumer into thinking the drink is making them feel good or helping them stay healthy. Red Bull markets itself as "giving you wings," and on some of Monster's labels, the large print boats "Lo-Carb."
However, any benefits these vitamins provide are practically moot once you take into account the extreme levels of caffeine and sugar in every sip.
These adverse effects include risk-seeking behavior, substance abuse, aggression, anxiety, increased stress, increased blood pressure, kidney damage, fatigue, stomachaches, and irritation. Unless you want a gnarly stomachache with a side of emotional turmoil, these researchers think you should steer clear.
"The energy drink industry has grown dramatically in the past 20 years, culminating in a nearly $10 billion per year industry in the United States," explained Dr. Mattei. "They are often marketed as a healthy beverage that people can adopt to improve their energy, stamina, athletic performance, and concentration, but our review shows there are important health consequences."
The researchers propose imposing an evidence-based limit on the caffeine content allowed in the beverages. They also believe that sales of the drinks to children and adolescents should be restricted. Instead, scientists hope that both children and adults will reach for a healthier energy drink alternative, instead.