As a physician I need to be aware of their potentially harmful effects. The list of supplements used in energy drinks is lengthy. As a consumer, you may not be aware of all the additives–as the labeling may not be complete.
Additives may include amino acids (like taurine and 5-hydroxytryptophan) and herbal products (like guarana, yohimbine, and ginseng) and bitter orange (containing synephrine) and ephedra (which is a stimulant).
The first energy drink was introduced in the US in 1997. Since then, consumption has increased exponentially. Did you know there were 200 new brands launched between 2006 and 2007?
Energy drinks have not been in existence long enough to build solid, evidence-based research to show long-term harm. But, there is concern regarding their ingredients and the amounts. Energy drinks can contain more than 500 mg of caffeine per serving. Compare this to 75-150 mg of caffeine for a cup of coffee. In addition, many of the herbs may also contain caffeine. The side effects of consuming large amounts of caffeine may be fast heart rate, insomnia, anxiety or even acute caffeine intoxication and then withdrawal.
Interactions and side effects are important!
- bitter orange can cause cardiovascular side effects
- ginseng can cause bleeding problems and lower blood sugar levels
- 5-hydroxytryptophan should not be combined with MAO inhibitors (a class of blood pressure medication)
- Yohimbine can interact with blood pressure medication or tricyclic antidepressants
- ginseng can change the effectiveness of the blood –thinner warfarin (coumadin).
Consider stopping energy drinks…