What you need to know:
- In recent years, thousands of people have sought emergency medical services with heart-related conditions directly linked to energy drinks.
- High levels of sugar are not good for the average healthy person and are dangerous for anyone who is diabetic.
- Consuming huge amounts of sugar regularly has been linked to loss of memory, stunted cognitive development, depression, and sleep disorders.
Packed with sugar, caffeine, and other stimulants, energy drinks promise to give you energy and a concentration boost. Today, energy drinks are among the most popular drinks in the world among teenagers and young adults. These age groups are the most active in sports, and careers.
Health experts are, however, concerned that you may be sacrificing your long-term health for a short-lived burst of energy.
What are energy drinks and what’s in them?
Energy drinks include a range of beverages that are taken to replenish or boost energy especially by people in sports. In recent years, energy drinks have become popular among even people who are not engaged in sports or athletic activities.
The drinks usually contain caffeine, refined sugar, and vitamins. Some varieties also contain proteins in form of taurine or similar amino acids. Some brands may also have guarana, a stimulant similar to caffeine.
All these ingredients are in other foods and drinks we take daily. So, why are there health concerns about energy drinks?
Effect on the heart
Caffeine is the main ingredient in almost all energy drinks and, being a stimulant, is responsible for the heightened alertness you experience after taking the drink. The increased concentration and alertness may increase your productivity but it comes with increased blood pressure.
The sharp spikes in blood pressure are not healthy and have been linked to:
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Increased heart rate
- In extreme cases, cardiac arrest and heart attacks
In recent years, thousands of people have sought emergency medical services with heart-related conditions directly linked to energy drinks. Experts assert that, for such cases, caffeine is the most likely culprit.
Unhealthy amounts of sugar
Health experts recommend no more than 24g of sugar per day for women, and 36g for men. Most energy drinks are loaded with amounts of sugar that far exceed this recommendation, with some having as much as 100 grams in a single can. In addition to this, some companies add artificial sweeteners.
High levels of sugar are not good for the average healthy person and are dangerous for anyone who is diabetic. Over time, elevated blood-sugar levels also predispose individuals to cancers, obesity, high blood pressure, and fatty liver disease.
Energy drinks are dangerous when consumed alongside alcohol. Due to the energy boost from the sugar, you don’t feel as intoxicated as you should be and thus end up consuming higher volumes of alcohol than normal. Even if you don’t feel intoxicated, the alcohol damages your body, especially the liver, leading to serious alcohol-related illnesses.
Sugar harms the brain
Sugar has an addictive effect on the brain. It causes a high that creates a reward response similar to that of narcotics. Due to this effect, you can easily become addicted to energy drinks as your brain will always demand more.
This makes it difficult for you to concentrate on your tasks and feel fatigued whenever you go a long time without energy drinks. It is, therefore, no surprise that the drinks have become so popular.
Unfortunately, the damage to the brain does not end at addiction. Consuming huge amounts of sugar regularly has been linked to loss of memory, stunted cognitive development, depression, and sleep disorders.
You do not need energy drinks
When the school or work schedule is tight, drinking energy drinks may seem like the only viable option to remain sharp and focused. You start by telling yourself that you will drink in moderation, and only for the few weeks you need to be hyper-focused. Unfortunately, you soon realise that you have lost control.
The two-three weeks become months and years. Soon after, you are taking the energy drinks to get a boost to complete daily tasks or use them to hydrate instead of water and other healthy drinks.
Adequate rest, sleep, and exercises will help you remain alert when you need to, so aim for that.