Do energy drinks pose health risks? It is still up for debate


Few of us eat a completely healthy diet. Everyone eats things that they know aren’t good for them. Food psychologically comforts us as well as nourishes us. One will not avoid all unhealthy habits, so one has to differentiate between the slightly and the seriously harmful.

Are energy drinks seriously rather than slightly unhealthy? Sugar is probably much worse than fat, and as well as being typically sugary, energy drinks contain massive amounts of caffeine and a variety of other very stimulating ingredients. They are, of course also heavily processed.

According to new medical evidence, energy drinks may be more harmful than previously believed. Although the American beverages association defends energy drinks as reasonably safe if not exactly great for your health, new evidence suggests that energy drinks can be bad for your heart health and blood pressure. Other doctors say that the effects on blood pressure are mild enough not to do any harm unless the person already has heart issues or medical problems that make it unsafe to consume these very stimulating beverages. How dangerous energy drinks are is still being debated. Will new evidence condemn them?


Medical science is coming closer to answering these questions. Many of the ingredients in the best energy drinks are natural – amino acids and legal stimulants from plants, even if they all contain massive amounts of caffeine as well. Many energy drinks contain L-carnitine, which increases the rate at which the body converts fat into energy; therefore, they may help with weight loss in some cases.

Cardiologist John Higgins is investigating the poorly understood health effects of energy drinks. He points out that while the energizing plant ingredients may be natural, they are found in unnaturally large quantity in energy drinks. The dose makes the poison; healthy ingredients can become very unhealthy if one consumes too much of them. Higgins refers to energy drinks as a black box, as something that we know little of. Higgins, who has led multiple studies about their health effects, disadvises them in particular for pregnant women and those under the age of 18.

One thing that energy drinks can surely do is temporarily raise a person’s heart rate and blood pressure by a great deal. This is an effect far more significant than coffee has, due to the much higher caffeine content and due to many ingredients acting together to raise the heart rate. Can an energy drink give you a heart attack? Higgins points to several cases in which more than one energy drink put a person into cardiac arrest. Energy drinks can certainly be dangerous, even if whether or not they can hurt a healthy person is disputed.

While there is no evidence that an energy drink can give a healthy person a heart attack, a person can become genuinely intoxicated if they drink a few energy drinks. Caffeine intoxication is real, and energy drinks often contain a few large coffees worth of caffeine. Caffeine intoxication can lead to an inability to think clearly, gastrointestinal problems, and poor sleep. American troops have been warned about the effects of energy drinks on sleep and mental focus. At least, people should be aware that energy drinks are very strong, and should not be compared to other caffeinated beverages.