Killing You Slowly: Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are popular and we certainly seem to be surrounded by them. More than 50 per cent of college students say that they have at least one energy drink per month and many have one at least every week. In 2008 there were more than 16,000 hospital emergency room visits that were related to energy drinks.  Perhaps these drinks have a bit too much “oomph” to be considered safe? Have you ever wondered exactly what is in those cans and how they work?

  • They contain tremendous amounts of caffeine. An average cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine. An average energy drink? Some more than 500 mg. Because they are listed with the FDA as a “nutritional supplement”, nothing in energy drinks is regulated or controlled.  In small amounts caffeine is harmless, but taken in higher doses; it can cause an extreme elevation in blood pressure, heart rates and abnormal heart rhythms. Some emergency room doctors state that they have even had cases of seizures and deaths related to energy drinks.

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  • Unfortunately, many college students seem to think that caffeine will counteract alcohol, keeping them awake and leaving them with no hangover. This is not true. Although it may keep you from becoming sleepy, it does nothing to improve your motor skills, quicken your reaction time, or keep you from becoming mentally impaired.
  • Some people will tell you that their favorite energy drink doesn’t contain caffeine, “it’s taurine”, ginseng, or guarana. That doesn’t make it safer. Guarana or guaranine, as it’s often labeled, has never been studied by the FDA, so no one knows if it’s safe or not. Also, guaranine is not always included in the caffeine listing, so you might be ingesting even more caffeine than the label claims.
  • Most energy drinks also contain large amounts of sugar. Consuming just one energy drink per day can put you over your daily maximum recommended level of sugar intake per day, two times over!
  • Although you might find that energy drinks try to “beef up” their drinks by claiming they have added vitamins (such as vitamin B), don’t be fooled. There isn’t enough added to these drinks to have any positive effect on your body. Also, considering the harmful levels of other ingredients, any good is outweighed by the tremendous amount of bad.
  • It’s the combination of sugar, caffeine, and taurine in most energy drinks that seem to have a detrimental effect on the heart. Doctors at University of Bonn in Germany recently presented a study showing that, after one hour, those who consumed an energy drink experienced a 6 per cent increase in the heart contraction rate. Energy drinks alter heart function and it is unknown, at this time, what the long term effects of this might be. Read more about heart attack symptoms in women.

You don’t need energy drinks to improve your performance.

Get some exercise, eat a healthy diet filled with water (reasons why you need a lot of water).

Natural fruits and vegetables, and a good night’s sleep is all you really need to be your best every day.


  • Alex Smotritsky

    “Guarana or guaranine, as it’s often labeled, has never been studied by the FDA, so no one knows if it’s safe or not.”

    You don’t really mean that no one knows if Guarana is safe or not just because the FDA hasn’t studied it do you? Because the FDA hasn’t studied a lot of things and they are not all that authoritative on things that they have studied. If you care about the benefits and risks of supplementation with Guarana/Caffeine and other things, the FDA is a very poor source of information to rely on.