Are Energy Drinks Good for You?
Are Energy Drinks Good for You?
Energy drinks are defined as a soft drink containing a high percentage of sugar, caffeine, or another stimulant, typically consumed during or after sporting activity or as a way of overcoming tiredness. But there is a growing trend of people consuming them as they would any other drink. Should they be worried?
Almost all energy drinks contain caffeine to stimulate brain function, increase alertness and improve concentration. However, the amount of caffeine in these drinks varies from product to product. The table below shows the amount of caffeine in a number of popular energy drinks:
Energy drinks usually contain other ingredients, with some of the most common ingredients, other than caffeine, listed below:
- Sugar: Usually the main source of calories in energy drinks, although some do not contain sugar due to the “low in sugar” market increasing.
- B vitamins: Important for converting food into energy your body can use.
- Amino acid derivatives: Typically taurine and L-carnitine. Both are naturally produced by the body and have roles in several biological processes.
- Herbal extracts: Guarana is likely included to add more caffeine, while ginseng may have positive effects on brain function.
Energy Drinks Can Improve Brain Function
People use energy drinks for many different reasons. One of the most popular being to increase mental alertness and improve brain function. Multiple studies confirm that energy drinks can improve aspects of brain function such as, concentration, reactions and reducing mental fatigue. In fact, one study showed that drinking just one 500ml can of Red Bull increased both concentration and memory by about 24%. Many researchers believe this increase to be attributed to caffeine alone, while others have think that combining caffeine and sugar is necessary to see the most benefit.
Energy Drinks Can Help People Function When Tired
Another reason people use energy drinks is to help them when they’re tired. Studies using driving simulations have concluded that energy drinks can increase driving quality and reduce sleepiness, even when drivers are sleep-deprived. Although energy drinks may also help these people to stay alert and awake, at least one study has shown that energy drink use could negatively affect sleep quality afterwards.
Energy Drinks May Cause Heart Problems
One study showed that energy drink use has been implicated in several cases of heart problems, which required emergency room visits. Additionally, over 20,000 trips to the emergency department are associated with energy drink use every year in the US alone. On top of that, multiple studies have also shown that using energy drinks can increase blood pressure and heart rate It also showed a decrease in important markers of blood vessel function, which is bad for heart health.
Most experts believe that heart problems associated with energy drink use occur as a result of excessive caffeine intake. Most people who suffered serious heart problems after energy drinks were consuming more than three of these drinks at a time and/or mixing them with alcohol.
Consuming them occasionally and in reasonable amounts is unlikely to cause heart problems in healthy adults with no history of heart disease.
Most Energy Drinks Are Loaded With Sugar
Most energy drinks contain a high amounts of sugar. For example, a can of Red Bull contains 27g of sugar, while a can of Monster contains about 54g of sugar. Consuming this much sugar will cause your blood sugar to spike and if you have problems with your blood sugar or have diabetes, you should be particularly cautious with energy drinks.
These blood sugar elevations have been linked to higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, which are responsible for most chronic disease. People without diabetes need to be concerned about this sugar as well. One study reported that drinking one or two sugary drinks daily corresponded with a 26% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Luckily, many energy drink manufacturers are now producing drinks that are either lower in sugar or sugar free. These products may be better for people with diabetes or those following a low-carb diet.
How Much Is Too Much? Can Anyone Drink Energy Drinks?
Most of the health concerns involving energy drinks centre on their caffeine content. It is generally recommended that adults consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. Energy drinks usually contain around 80mg of caffeine per 250ml – similar to a cup of coffee.
The problem is that many energy drinks are sold in containers larger than 250ml. Also, some contain extremely high amounts of caffeine. Additionally, several energy drinks contain guarana, a natural source of caffeine (40mg of caffeine per gram).This isn’t included in the caffeine content on the product label.
Although occasionally drinking one energy drink is unlikely to cause any harm, it’s probably better to avoid consuming energy drinks daily.
Energy drinks can deliver on some of their promised benefits by increasing brain function and helping you function when you’re tired or sleep-deprived.
However, there are some health concerns, particularly with excessive caffeine intake, sugar content and mixing them with alcohol.
If you choose to drink energy drinks, limit your intake to 500ml per day and stay away from “energy shots.” Try to reduce your intake of other caffeinated drinks to avoid the harmful effects of too much caffeine. Some people, including pregnant and nursing women, children and teenagers, should avoid energy drinks altogether.