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The Other Side to Energy Drinks

CEBU, Philippines — Energy drinks are popular these days. These drinks perk up the body quickly, just like coffee. And people think energy drinks are much healthier compared to coffee.

But there’s recently been the other side to energy drinks exposed. So-called ‘dangers’ of energy drinks are getting media mileage because of the sheer volume of these energy stimulating products available in the marketplace today. Plus – everyone has access to these products, even children.

While most energy drinks don’t have as much caffeine as the big-name coffee brands, they are heavily sweetened and easy to drink, which appeals more to the young market. Thus, there’s more and more of these products coming up. Among young people, energy drinks are almost a fad.

Media advertisements highlighting the fact of energy drinks boosting sports performance seem to entice young people, including children, to follow sports celebrities endorsing certain energy-drink brands. Recent studies, however, reveal that the performance boost is only one side of the energy drinks’ story.

The website www.caffeineinformer.com cites increased incidents of 18-year-olds and younger experiencing dangerous side effects from consuming too many energy drinks at one time. The website enumerates:

Cardiac Arrest: While it would take a certain volume of energy drinks taken at one time to be lethal, different individuals have different thresholds. There are those with underlying heart conditions have going into cardiac arrest after just a few energy drinks. It is important, therefore, that before drinking energy drinks or caffeine, one shall make sure to know his or her heart’s health.

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A new study showed that energy drinks cause more forceful heart contractions, which could be harmful to some with certain heart conditions. In the U.S. between 2009 and 2011 there were close to 5,000 calls to poison control centers regarding energy drinks. About 51 percent of these calls were involving children.

Another study recommends that teens consume no more than one 250 milliliter energy drink per day, and not before or during sports or exercise.  A 2016 study also showed that 18- to 40-year-olds who drank energy drinks had increased abnormal heart rhythm risk.

Headaches and Migraines: Too many energy drinks can lead to severe headaches from the caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Changing the amount of caffeine one ingests daily can cause more frequent headaches.

Increased Anxiety: Those with two different genetic variations in their adenosine receptors are prone to feeling increased anxiety when consuming caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks. Larger doses of caffeine can even spur on full blown panic attacks.

Insomnia: Energy drinks do a good job of keeping people awake, but when abused, they can cause some people to miss sleep altogether. Lack of sleep causes impaired functioning and can be dangerous when driving or performing other tasks that require concentration.

Type 2 Diabetes: Because many energy drinks are also very high in sugar, they can eventually wear out the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

Drug Interaction: Some of the ingredients in energy drinks can interact with prescription medications, especially those for depression.

Addiction: People can become addicted to caffeine and energy drinks. This can lead to a lack of functioning when unable to have the energy drink or a financial stress from having to buy several energy drinks daily in order to function normally.

Risky behavior: A study published in The Journal of American College Health showed that teens are more likely to take dangerous risks when high on caffeine. This could result in injury or legal trouble.

Jitters and Nervousness: Too much caffeine from energy drinks can cause some people to shake and be anxious, which can interfere with performing needed tasks or cause emotional issues.

Vomiting: Too many energy drinks can lead to vomiting. This causes dehydration and acid erosion of teeth and esophagus if frequent.

Allergic Reactions: Because of the many ingredients in energy drinks reactions could occur, from minor itching to airway constriction.

High Blood Pressure: Caffeinated products like energy drinks can elevate a person’s blood pressure. For those with normal blood pressure, this isn’t concerning, but those with already elevated blood pressure could be placing themselves at risk of stroke and other health problems related to hypertension, if they consume too many energy drinks in a short period of time.

A recent study conducted by The Mayo Clinic found that a particular energy-drink brand in the U.S. significantly raised the blood pressure of study participants. Overall, there was a 6.4 percent increase in average blood pressure.  Another study published by the American Heart Association showed that energy drinks had a greater negative effect on blood pressure than drinks that contain caffeine alone as the active ingredient. The combination of ingredients in energy drinks are believed to pose greater risk of heart-related problems than drinks like coffee or tea.

Niacin Overdose: Niacin (Vitamin B3) is placed in most energy drinks at levels that cause no harm and can even be therapeutic. However, if a person is taking additional supplements containing Niacin, overdosing on the vitamin is possible when consuming energy drinks in addition to those supplements. Niacin overdose symptoms include flushing, dizziness, rapid heart rate, vomiting, itching, gout, and diarrhea. The British Journal of Medicine recently published a case study of a man who experienced non-viral hepatitis from B3 toxicity believed to have been from consuming too many energy drinks during a period of three weeks.

Stress Hormone Release: A study conducted by The Mayo Clinic found that an energy-drink brand caused an increase in stress hormone release. The average norepinephrine level of the study participants increased by 74 percent while the placebo only caused a 31 percent increase.

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