Energy Drinks: Serious Side Effects Possible

Energy drinks promise higher performance and better concentration. Sweet drinks are particularly popular with young people: According to a survey, every fifth person aged 10 to 16 drinks energy drinks regularly. But those who drink the stimulating beverages frequently and in large quantities increase their risk of a heart attack or even sudden cardiac death. Several deaths related to energy drinks are already known in the USA.

Additives in energy drinks: the maximum dose is quickly reached

What distinguishes energy drinks from other sugary drinks is a mixture of additives – mainly caffeine, taurine, vitamin B, L-carnitine, or ginseng extract. Caffeine and taurine are said to increase alertness and performance. But with energy drinks, you quickly consume too much of these substances.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considers a maximum of three milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day to be safe for caffeine. According to this, a young person weighing 50 kilograms already exceeds his daily limit with two small cans of an energy drink.

Side Effects of Caffeine: Danger to heart and circulation

Too much caffeine can have dramatic side effects:

  • palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • sleep disorders
  • muscle tremors
  • anxiety states
  • epileptic attacks
  • cardiac arrhythmias

Especially in combination with alcohol, energy drinks can put a strain on the cardiovascular system. Alcohol and caffeine increase heart rate. Caffeine ensures that the body tolerates more alcohol. If physical exercise such as dancing or sports is added, the heart is quickly overwhelmed. In the worst case, this leads to a heart attack.

Tip: The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) provides a caffeine calculator at www.checkdeinedosis.de, which anyone can use to calculate whether the amount of caffeine consumed is within the green range.

A combination of active ingredients puts a strain on the heart

A study commissioned by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has shown that the combination of several active ingredients in energy drinks puts a greater strain on the heart than caffeine alone. In the study participants who had drunk a liter of the stimulant mix, their blood pressure rose more than in participants who had only consumed caffeine. An important ECG value, the QT time, also changed – a sign that cardiac arrhythmias can occur.

Who should give up energy drinks

Experts advise against the following consumers of energy drinks:

  • people with cardiovascular diseases
  • People who take ADHD drugs, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers
  • People who are sensitive to caffeine

Do B vitamins damage the liver?

There is ample evidence that increased consumption of energy drinks can also damage the liver. This is probably due to the addition of B vitamins, which in high concentrations can lead to liver damage.

Lots of sugar in energy drinks

A small can of energy drink contains 54 grams of sugar. That’s more than double the maximum daily dose recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Long-term increased consumption of the drinks can also lead to obesity and diabetes.

Sales ban requested

Despite the health risks, the manufacturers of energy drinks only have to warn against excessive consumption in the small print on the can: “Increased caffeine content. Not recommended for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.”

Consumer advocates and the WHO is calling for a ban on sales to children and young people. The Federal Ministry of Food has so far relied on education and has, for example, commissioned information material for schools.

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