We live in a demanding society which enforces very rapid rhythms of living upon us. Our social life is now made up of small pieces that would otherwise require our undivided attention to make progress.
For example, being a mother has always been a full time job. The mom used to stay at home and take care of the kids AND the house. But wait, it gets even better..
Table of Contents
- 1 The need for more energy!
- 2 Is Caffeine really the Answer?
- 3 The need for a new energy hero
- 4 Common Side Effects of Energy Drink consumption
- 5 9 ingredients with Serious side effects
- 6 Closing Notes
The need for more energy!
Nowadays with the critical economic situation, many, if not all of us are asked to put on several hats and be equally as successful. So in this case, a mother is not only expected to take care of the kids and house but to also have a career, find time to workout, hang out with friends or go dating.
These high demands plus the hectic pace and the lack of good nutritional habits create an environment where we end up with little or no energy while still having to get a lot of things done.
Modern science made it possible for us to have access to the knowledge of nutrition and supplementation, which subsequently means a market with high quality foods, health foods and health supplements.
But not everyone has the time to learn about nutrition (let alone prepare a solid plan) and not everyone has the money to afford healthy foods or supplements!
Is Caffeine really the Answer?
So people decided to look into cheap sources of energy, one of which was caffeine which marked the dawn of the coffee era.
Almost ⅕ of the planet starts their day with the introduction of caffeine into their system via the consumption of coffee. While coffee goes back to the ancient times and comes from South American, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern traditions, coffee was introduced to the modern world as the solution to compress 48 hours in a day. This helped the coffee business grow immensely in the last 2 decades.
The need for a new energy hero
But since then, society has been even more demanding and the effects of coffee were soon deemed to be ‘inadequate’ and society required a new “hero”.
Enter the power drinks movement.
A caffeine-based drink combined with high fructose syrup was introduced as if it was the cure for every modern problem :
You have a deadline at work? Have an energy drink!
You have exams and you need to study all night? Drink a power drink!
You have to go to the gym but no energy? Grab an energy drink!
You want to sleep but can’t? Grab a …oh wait, that’s why you can’t sleep at night!
Common Side Effects of Energy Drink consumption
Over stimulation which leads to insomnia is only one of the side effects of using power drinks.
Other side effects of energy drink consumption include:
- Palpitations / tachycardia,
- Tremor / shaking,
- Agitation / restlessness,
- Gastrointestinal upset,
- Chest pain / ischaemia,
- Dizziness / syncope,
- Paraesthesia (tingling or numbing of the skin),
- Respiratory distress,
I will just elaborate on the last point: excitotoxicity. According to the book “Excitotoxins: The taste that kills by Russell Blaylock” aspartame and MSG (monosodium glutamate) are substances responsible for the over-stimulation of neurotransmitters which damages or kills nerve cells. This is the process he refers to as excitotoxicity.
Note that all of the above side effects tend to magnify on an empty stomach!
But I thought that FDA regulated power drinks!
One could argue that power drinks are regulated by the FDA and other organization responsible for the general public health but this often means nothing. The effects of long term use of the power drink have not been adequately tested which means that we have no idea what other side effects may come up.
9 ingredients with Serious side effects
What we do know is that most energy drinks contain certain ingredients that have severe side effects especially when consumed in high doses. Note that some of the these ingredients are healthy in low doses (such as B Vitamins, Gingko biloba or Ginseng) while others are completely unhealthy even in small amounts (white sugar or Artificial sweeteners). Let’s focus on each one of them.
This is the main ingredient found in almost all of the energy drinks today.
Not everyone can handle caffeine and it only takes 400mg/day to lead to increased heartbeat, insomnia and restlessness to appear in healthy adults. If this is what happens to healthy adults, just imagine what it can do to people with caffeine sensitivity or kids!
Side effects from high dosages (500-1000mg) include:
- Heart Palpitations,
- High blood pressure,
- Diarrhea and other gastric problems,
- Increased urination and dehydration,
- Dizziness, nausea, jitters,
- Allergic reactions such as rashes, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of tongue or mouth,
- Headaches and fatigue,
- Adrenal fatigue (a condition where the body is unable to shut down its production of adrenaline because of constant adrenal over-stimulation).
Other common ingredients that contain caffeine found on labels include: green tea (or extract), coffee (or extract) and guarana.
The majority of energy drinks contain high levels of sugar. This either comes from chemically bleached cane sugar (also known as white sugar) or high fructose corn syrup.
Here are the side effects of excessive sugar consumption:
- Type 2 diabetes,
- Crashes due to insulin spikes,
- Addiction to sugar,
- Tooth decay.
Also, according to Paul Chek, consumption of white sugar compromises the immune system for 4 to 6 hours.
Also, as you can expect, sugar used in these drinks come from GMO sources which are shown to cause cancerogenesis. I have written extensively about sugar in one of my Nutrition series on Carbs Sugar – The Enemy.
While there are no documented Taurine side-effects and while the dosages used in energy drinks are so low that they cannot produce any therapeutic benefits or side effects, the Taurine used in the drinks is not naturally occurring and is potentially toxic.
B-vitamins are a must for optimal health but that relates to the entire spectrum of B-Vitamins (as found in healthy foods such as honey) and not isolated versions of it.
Specific B-Vitamins in isolation and when taken in excess can cause problems for example:
- Consumption of over 100mg of B6 can lead to sensory nerve problems (burning sensation).
- Consumption of over 30mg of B3 (Niacin) can cause flushing of the skin. Quantities of over 3000mg can lead to liver toxicity.
Inositol is another B-Vitamin that can help with panic attacks, depression but can also treat psoriasis, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s.
However ingesting large quantities (which can happen when drinking large quantities of energy drinks) can cause diarrhea.
Panax Ginseng happens to be one of my favorite herbs (there are so many different types of ginseng that they can be considered a class of their own). Different types of Ginseng have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for ages to treat fatigue and other energy related problems.
That being said, Panax Ginseng or Red Korean Ginseng is very expensive and I highly doubt that they use this form in commercial energy drinks (if they did, you would pay 30$ for a small can). This means that they are probably using some low quality type of Ginseng.
Regardless, over-consumption or usage of certain types of Ginseng for more than 3 months can lead to:
- Low blood pressure,
- Palpitations and tachycardia,
- Vaginal bleeding,
Also, it is worth mentioning that different types of people respond differently to different types of Ginseng and taking this herb is more complicated that you think. You can read more about its health benefits in my Panax Ginseng article, The King of all Adaptogens or you can read about the merits of Peruvian Ginseng in my Maca article.
This section can be an article of its own (You can read about the dangers of artificial sweeteners here). There are different artificial sweeteners in the market today and none of them are safe for human consumption. Two of the most common sweeteners are aspartame and sucralose.
The only alternative (and natural) sweetener I personally suggest is stevia. Even if you do find an energy drink with stevia, it will most probably be lost in the pool of toxic substances that makes up an energy drink.
Without stepping into the specifics and different kinds of artificial sweeteners here are some side effects of them:
- Change in vision,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Insomnia / sleep problems,
- Abdominal and joint pains,
- Change in heart rate,
- Memory loss,
- Brain cancer,
- Weight loss (yes you read that right).
As Dr.Mercola mentioned in one of his many articles on aspartame: ‘For 20 years, the FDA gave aspartame products the thumbs down mainly for the following safety issues and reasons:
- Flawed data
- High cholesterol levels
- Fluid loss in your body.”
And then all of a sudden, FDA deemed aspartame safe for the general public… interesting.
Gingko Biloba is another great herb which increases focus and concentration (and aids with heart health). But high doses of this herb can lead to side effects such as:
- Heart palpitations,
- Can interact with other medication such as blood thinners and anti-depressants.
L-Carnitine is an amino acid with many benefits, used mostly by athletes and students for fat loss, testosterone optimization, better recovery for the body and the brain and can also help with several heart problems. I go through its various forms and how it can benefit your mental and hormonal health (and your fat loss) in my Carnitine article.
However, over consumption through high doses of energy drinks can lead to:
- Stuffy nose
After reading about the dangers of energy drinks, are you still a fan? You will be glad to hear that there are healthy alternatives that you can use for better energy. These can either be herbs or other healthy dietary supplements with lots of other health benefits. Make sure you keep your eye on my herbs and supplements section as I will be adding more articles about such natural energy solutions.
Have you ever had any health problems from using energy drinks? What did you experience and how did you deal with it? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. Putting together this article took a bit of time but it will only take you a second to click on the Share buttons below and show your support to this blog.
by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200
- MedLine Plus on Caffeine:
- Energy Beverages – Content and Safety: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc2966367/
- Dr.Mercola on Aspartame: http://www.mercola.com/Downloads/bonus/aspartame/report.aspx