Over the last decade, energy drinks have risen in popularity among teens and adults. Marketed with flashy slogans and promises of better focus and performance, it’s no surprise that 34% of young adults age 18-24 consume them regularly1. What most people don’t know about energy drinks are the potential health risks that come from consuming too much caffeine.
The Effects of Caffeine on Your Body
Caffeine takes effect on the central nervous system within 30 minutes of consumption. It acts as a stimulant, causing the release of neurotransmitters like adrenaline, which increase your heart rate and blood pressure. In small doses, caffeine usually causes no harm. However, a typical energy drink contains four to five times more caffeine than a cup of coffee. Experts recommend that healthy individuals consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day; an amount which is often seen in just one serving of an energy drink.
Excessive Caffeine Consumption Can Be a Medical Emergency
The health risks associated with energy drinks are more severe in those with high blood pressure or heart problems. Emergency room visits related to overconsumption of caffeine are often from dehydration, seizures, and dangerously high blood pressure. From 2007 to 2011, research showed that adults age 40 and older were responsible for the greatest increase in energy drink related emergency room visits4. Overall, the amount of energy drink related emergency room visits doubled during those same years from 10,000 to 20,000 visits per year4.
Mixing Alcohol with Energy Drinks
Combining alcohol with energy drinks is a growing trend among teens and young adults. Over 30% of young adults aged 18-28 reported mixing the two substances at least once in the last year2. The dangers of consuming a stimulant are magnified when combined with a depressant such as alcohol. Energy drinks can mask the depressive effects of alcohol by making the consumer feel more alert and awake3. Because of this, individuals who combine energy drinks and alcohol can’t determine their level of intoxication.
The Bottom Line
Be aware of the ingredients in energy drinks, such as high caffeine content, added sugars, and other supplements. Excessive amounts of caffeine can pose a risk to those with heart problems or individuals who combine energy drinks with alcohol. Also, make sure to read the label on energy drinks to identify how many servings are in the container. If you do decide to consume caffeine, try a better alternative such as tea or black coffee, and make sure to stay below the recommended amount of 400 milligrams per day.
- Energy Drinks. (2017, October 04). https://nccih.nih.gov/health/energy-drinks
- Johnson LD, O’Malley PM, Bachman JG, Schulenberg JE, Miech RA. Monitoring the Future: National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975–2015. Volume 2: College Students and Adults Ages 19–55. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; 2016
- Marczinski CA, Fillmore MT. Energy drinks mixed with alcohol: what are the risks? Nutr Rev. 2014;72(suppl 1):98–107
- Mattson, M.E. Update on Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks: A Continuing Public Health Concern. The CBHSQ Report: January 10, 2013. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.