Energy drinks health benefits and nutrition facts: Are they safe?

By:Times Foodie, Updated: Jun 16, 2022 | 17:58 IST

energy drink

Energy drinks are popular beverages that are consumed for instant energy. Brands like Red Bull and Monster are some of the well-known energy drinks that promise an energy boost and an improvement in performance.



There has been a spike in the consumption of energy drinks in the last two decades, especially among teens and young adults. This has led the healthcare community to examine the many health effects of energy drinks.

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks are beverages that contain a high amount of stimulants such as caffeine and sugar. They are meant to improve mental alertness and physical performance in the short run. These drinks commonly contain vitamin B6 and B12 and other ingredients like taurine.

The caffeine in these drinks (equivalent to that in a cup of coffee) works by blocking the effects of adenosine, which helps us sleep. It makes the body think that there is an emergency, which in turn causes adrenaline to be released. Consuming energy drinks can make the heart beat faster and pupils grow larger. There is a sudden surge of sugar in the blood, making us think that we suddenly have a lot of energy.

Energy drinks are marketed mostly to the working professionals, drivers, athletes and even students who want more than just plain tea or coffee to improve their performance and mental energy. They are available in a variety of flavours with a combination of stimulants. It's today a multibillion-dollar market thanks to its rising popularity.

There are many known and unknown effects of these drinks. Since there is no restriction on the sale of caffeine, which is a psychotropic ingredient, the medical community has been taking note of its many side effects. There are reports of toxicity and other adverse effects since energy drinks are combined with recreational drugs and alcohol.

Energy drink nutrition

250 ml of a popular energy drink (Red Bull) contains the following nutrients:

Nutrients

Measure

Calories

110

Total fat

0%

Sodium

105 mg (4%)

Total carbs

28 gm

Sugars

27 gm

Protein

Less than 1 gm

Niacin

100%

Vitamin B6

250%

Vitamin B12

80%

Pantothenic acid

50%

Caffeine

80 mg



Health facts about energy drinks

Energy drinks are often fortified with B vitamins that help convert food into usable instant energy. They also contain amino acid derivatives like taurine and L-carnitine and herbal extracts like ginseng and guarana.

A large amount of caffeine in these energy drinks improves memory, alertness and mood. They improve aerobic endurance, aerobic performance and upper muscle endurance.

Some studies also showed that energy drinks improved cognition and mood in sleep-deprived people who had these drinks.

These drinks may provide an instant boost, but they are definitely not a healthy food. However, due to the supplements added to the drink, there may be some health benefits, such as:

  • Increased energy
  • Wakefulness
  • Improved performance
  • Improved brain function
  • Improved mood
  • More concentration
  • Reduced mental fatigue

On the flip side, they contain a high amount of caffeine, sugar, colours and other chemical concoctions. Regularly consuming energy drinks may cause poor sleep quality and a drop in energy levels the following day. The cycle of consuming these drinks may also lead to recurrent fatigue from poor sleep, cardiovascular problems, neurological problems, gastrointestinal disturbances, kidney problems and dental effects. Following are some of the adverse effects of overconsumption of energy drinks:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Reduction in endothelial function
  • Increased platelet activity and platelet aggregation could lead to stroke
  • Increased risk of arterial dilation
  • Increased risk of aneurysm
  • Increased risk of rupture of large arteries
  • Could cause insomnia and decreased sleep quality
  • Could lead to gastrointestinal problems
  • Could cause epileptic seizures
  • Can cause hallucinations
  • Could lead to dehydration
References:
1. Saku, E. Y., Nuro-Ameyaw, P., Amenya, P. C., Kpodo, F. M., Esua-Amoafo, P., & Kortei, N. K. (2020). Energy drink: the consumption prevalence, and awareness of its potential health implications among commercial drivers in the Ho municipality of Ghana. BMC public health, 20(1), 1304. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09421-x
2. Alsunni A. A. (2015). Energy Drink Consumption: Beneficial and Adverse Health Effects. International journal of health sciences, 9(4), 468–474.
3. Ibrahim, N. K., & Iftikhar, R. (2014). Energy drinks: Getting wings but at what health cost?. Pakistan journal of medical sciences, 30(6), 1415–1419. https://doi.org/10.12669/pjms.306.5396

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