Energy drinks: Are they safe for you and your kids?

by Melissa A. Bartoszewski, DC

(NaturalNews) It seems like a new energy drink comes out every month claiming to provide more “energy,” fewer/zero calories and no sugar. Approximately 30-50 percent of today’s adolescents are consuming these drinks; it’s important for parents and adults of all ages to know if they are really safe. The amount of caffeine in such drinks is often excessive and unregulated by the FDA. Is there really any therapeutic benefit to consuming energy drinks? Are they doing more harm than good? Lifestyle modifications can be made to provide energy the safe, healthy way.

What’s in an energy drink?

Caffeine: central nervous system (CNS) stimulant; adverse effects: nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, tachycardia, palpitations, altered consciousness, paralysis, hallucinations, seizures, etc.
(Energy drinks contain three times the amount of caffeine than cola drinks, and energy “shots” can contain up to five times the amount).

Taurine: Amino acid found in the CNS. Originally found in the bile of bulls and is now synthetically mass produced, even though it is produced naturally in the body. Possible adverse effects: hypertension, seizures, stroke, and death (Group III, 2009).

Guarana: Plant that contains large amounts of caffeine. Adverse effects: restlessness, insomnia, increased heart rate, hypertension, tremors, headache, etc. Each gram of guarana contains between 40-80 mg of caffeine; manufactures are not mandated to include this information on their labels, therefore, each serving size may contain significantly higher, dangerous amounts of caffeine than listed.

L-Carnitine: Amino acid; adverse effects: nausea/vomiting, seizures, abdominal pain, etc.

Ginseng: East Asian herb; adverse effects: headache, hypertension, insomnia, irritability, vertigo, etc.

Yohimbine: Plant-based herbal supplement; adverse effects: hypertension, tachycardia and death.

Megadose of B Vitamins: 2,000 percent B6, 8,333 percent B12. Although these B vitamins are water soluble, increased water intake should also occur when consuming such high doses. Vitamin B toxicity can occur with side effects.

Sugar: Toxic to our bodies and produces effects/addictive behaviors similar to alcohol. Fructose is extremely similar to only one other substance, alcohol (Lustig, 2009).

Energy drinks and shots also contain artificial flavoring and preservatives, which are toxic to our bodies and unnatural.

Who’s drinking this stuff?

46 percent of caffeine overdoses per year are in people under the age of 19. Children who consume energy drinks are at risk for more serious, adverse effects especially if they already take certain medications, have cardiovascular, renal or liver problems, seizures, diabetes, hyperactivity disorders, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism. Children should be getting enough exercise and eating properly to supply their growing bodies with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they require. These drinks are also extremely popular amongst college students. Lack of sleep and the desire to “increase energy” are the top two reasons students regularly consume these drinks.

Fighting fatigue naturally

Our society is fascinated and addicted to the “quick fix,” “instantaneous results” lifestyle. Drinking an energy drink will provide a rapid rise in blood sugar, B vitamins and herbs, but does not explain why you are experiencing low energy levels or a solution to fix the real problem (lack of sleep, nutritional deficiencies, etc.).

Energy drinks also pose risks in the workplace (healthcare fields). Safety issues are becoming a problem due to “mental and physical effects of the drinks, which are mainly related to the [CNS] and include heightened alertness, altered sleep patterns, arrhythmias and, rarely, seizures. In the workplace, any pharmacologic agent or substance, such as energy drinks, may present a risk to the delivery of healthcare.” (Guilbeau, 2012)

Consuming energy drinks comes with potential risks, drug interactions and an absence of benefits (Seifert,, 2011). Why not fuel your body with the energy it requires naturally? Nutritiously dense foods provide the ingredients you need to stay healthy and energized. Lentils, beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits are essential foods and smart choices to help you stay energized throughout the day. Exercising on a regular basis will also help to boost energy levels and improve your overall health.

Nurs Womens Health. 2012 Oct;16(5):423-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-486X.2012.01766.x. Health risks of energy drinks: what nurses and consumers need to know.

Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Sara M. Seifert, Judith L. Schaechter, Eugene R. Hershorin and Steven E. Lipshultz. Pediatrics 2011;127;511; originally published online February 14, 2011; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-3592