It’s a staple for many college students. Pulling an all-nighter to get that paper in – surrounded by cans and junk food wrappers. We’ve all seen it on the television even if we haven’t indulged ourselves. These carbonated beverages often keep college kids able to function between classes, socializing, and at work. But, at what cost?
Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages marketed to improve energy, stamina, athletic performance, and concentration. Categorized as “functional beverages” alongside sports drinks and nutraceuticals, the stimulant beverage industry has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. In 2015 alone, the United States saw over $9.7 billion in sales, and that number grows each year. The target consumer market for energy drinks is adolescents and young adults. One study found that 51% of college students report consuming at least one energy drink each month. This is problematic, as there is lots of recent evidence to suggest these drinks can cause a myriad of problems. Manufacturers of energy drinks claim that these beverages are beneficial in that they can boost energy, and can improve physical and cognitive performance. However, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these claims. On the other hand, there is emerging evidence that they are associated with a number of health issues. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Energy Drinks and Heart Attacks
There is growing evidence to suggest that drinking too many energy drinks can contribute to heart problems, and could even cause heart attacks. This is worse with people who have underlying structural heart disease, inherited heart-related problems, and abuse of other substances in addition to energy drinks. It doesn’t just occur with these people though. It may be assumed the elevated risk is due to high levels of caffeine. However, these drinks also often contain things like guarana, taurine, theophylline, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, vitamins, and L-carnitine. These can increase the risk of heart attacks, especially when ingested with alcohol. (5)
Energy Drinks and Strokes
A stroke is a sudden interruption in the blood supply of the brain. Energy drinks can have a negative impact on your overall cardiovascular health. This isn’t just limited to heart attacks. Unfortunately, these beverages can also cause you to have a stroke, due to the risk of adverse cardiovascular events. (5, 6, 7)
Energy Drinks and Blood Clots
Research undertaken at the University of Adelaide looked at the effects of the sugar-free varieties of energy drinks on blood clotting potential and blood vessel function. The study monitored 50 healthy volunteers in their early 20s one hour after drinking a single can of an energy drink. It showed that there was both an increase in blood clotting potential and blood vessel function was reduced, both of which increase the risk of a heart attack. (8)
Energy Drinks and Sleep Quality
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Unfortunately, energy drinks negatively impact your quality of sleep. This may be partly due to the overall goal of the drink in the first place – to stave off sleep so you can get more done. However, after the effects of the drink are supposed to have worn off, peopel may still find it difficult to fall asleepeven if they are trying to. Several studies have demonstrated that consumption of energy drinks was significantly associated with changes in sleep quality and patterns of students. (9, 10, 11)
While energy drinks may provide a temporary boost to get you through the day, they may not be a healthy long-term solution. There are many other ways of increasing your energy levels that don’t include energy drinks. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Healthy Holistic Living for some ideas.