Energy drinks are everywhere… from the TV commercials to convenience stores with stocked refrigerated cases. These little cans have generated about $20 billion in profits in 2010. However, there is growing concern regarding the health risks surrounding these drinks. In 2004, Monster Energy came under investigation for five deaths and one heart attack. More recently, 5 Hour Energy has come under investigation, as medical professionals examine its role in 33 hospitalizations and 13 deaths. So, what’s the deal? Are these drinks safe to consume regularly?
In 2009, over 13,000 ER visits were related to energy drink side effects. Energy drinks have a variety of ingredients that are toted to increase alertness and improve performance, but these ingredients could also land you in a hospital bed. Caffeine is energy drinks’ main ingredient, ranging from 70 mg to 242 mg per serving, depending on the brand. For reference, a can of Mountain Dew has 45mg of caffeine. Consumer Reports recently reported that 5 Hour Energy had 215 mg and the extra strength version had 242 mg of caffeine. Oddly enough, you will not find this information on their label.
Recently, a number of studies have looked at the health effects of energy drinks. They have found that consumption of these drinks raises blood pressure and changes the way your platelets and blood vessels act, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, experts say there have been four reported cases of seizures related to consumption of energy drinks. Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and insomnia are also common side effects.
What’s the future of these beverages? The courts will have to decide if 5 Hour Energy played a role in these recent hospitalizations and deaths. However, it’s clear to the medical community that too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Consumers need to be aware of the very real risks when they are purchasing these beverages and other types of energy supplements.
For now, I am recommending that teenagers, patients with a heart condition, high blood pressure, or seizure disorder, and those who are pregnant avoid these products all together. Everyone else should use caution when consuming them.
As for me, when I’m dragging, I’ll still turn to a soda or cup o’ joe!
Sources: American Journal of Medicine, Consumer Reports
About Dr. Susan Szulc
Susan V. Szulc, MD, is a board-certified internist with Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dr. Szulc earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., where she also completed a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Szulc is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and American Medical Women’s Association. Dr. Szulc’s special interests include palliative care and hypertension. Read more of Dr. Szulc’s blogs.
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