Is Extra Pep Worth the Risk?

Popular on college campuses, sport arenas, and rock concerts – energy drinks has become a trending source of artificial energy among young adults. According to Global Research and Market, the energy drink industry is predicted to be worth $61 billion by 2021. [1]  Many health experts are concern – is this increased consumption a health risk in today’s youth?  What are the harmful effects of energy drinks?

Increase adverse cardiovascular events

Many energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine – the key psychostimulant responsible for the beverage’s added jolt of energy. Consumption of energy drinks loaded with caffeine and ingredients that compound caffeine’s stimulant effects has been linked with increased blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiac output.[2][3] These effects can lead to adverse cardiovascular events such as irregular heartbeats, seizures, and cardiac arrest. In 2011, CDC reported 1,499 energy-drink health related emergencies among adolescents aged 12-17 years old.[4]

Increase sleep disturbance and mood issues

Consumption of energy drinks can lead to increase alertness and wakefulness. When consumed in high amounts, this can disrupt sleep patterns. Overtime, poor quality of sleep can affect mental clarity and cause poor functioning and mood changes. Chronic energy drinkers are more likely to have mood fluctuations as a result – they become more easily agitated, anxious, and even depressed. [5] A study published in JAMA reported a direct increase of stress hormones from increased consumption of energy drinks – further exacerbating mental distress.[6]

Increase adverse metabolic effects

Energy drinks are packed with artificial sweeteners. Increase consumption of sugar-laden beverages can cause blood sugar to rise. When this happens on a chronic basis, the body can develop resistance to insulin – the hormone responsible for keeping blood sugar in check. Multiple studies have demonstrated sugar-sweetened beverages effects on health – all of them providing strong links to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.[7][8]

Increase dental decay and cavities

Sugar-sweetened beverages has been associated with high prevalence of dental caries among children.[9] The high amounts of sugar found in energy drinks can serve as substrate for oral bacteria’s enzymatic reactions. This can promote harmful bacteria to grow and cause teeth to decay. In addition, most energy drinks are carbonated and contain high amounts of acidic substance. These ingredients can cause tooth enamel to break down causing tooth demineralization further allowing the tooth decay to process.[10]

Increase risk-seeking behavior and substance abuse

Several studies have shown increase likelihood of impulsive behavior among kids who frequently consume energy drinks.[11] In one correlational study, middle and high school students who consume energy drinks on a daily basis were more likely to engage in alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and amphetamine use.[12] These studies do not demonstrate direct causation but they suggest strong correlation between energy drink consumption and impulsive behavior.