Are Energy Drinks Safe?

Waking up in the morning and feeling sluggish is hardly a new phenomenon. What is a recent development, however, is consuming tremendous amounts of caffeine, sugar, and other ingredients to propel you forward into your day.

It seems that what was originally just coffee or tea in the morning has now become an energy drink with more caffeine than two or three cups of java. Since these drinks and most of their proprietary “energy formulas” are relatively new, they have not yet been properly evaluated. Nonetheless, research on their main ingredients has shown us that some are far less safe than initially believed. Discussed below are the most common ingredients and just how safe they are (and in what doses).

 

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Caffeine

Believe it or not, caffeine has actually been consumed in various forms for thousands of years. It is actually quite effective at keeping you alert and energized, though it can pose some problems in high dosages. An Australian study recently showed that 100mg of caffeine can boost your brain activity significantly (albeit temporarily).

Most energy drinks contain caffeine levels equivalent to one or (at the high end) two cups of coffee. Assuming you aren’t particularly sensitive to caffeine and do not feel too jittery afterwards, this amount actually poses no significant problems. If combined with other caffeinated beverages throughout the day, however, you may experience headaches, nausea and other symptoms. Caffeine consumption is not recommended for individuals battling high blood pressure.

Sugar

It will come in a variety of forms, but most energy drinks are absolutely saturated in sugar. Whether it’s high fructose corn syrup, fructose, glucose, or sucrose, most energy drinks have as much (or more) sugar as the sweetest of sodas. Your body does, however, run primarily on glucose and ingesting some will help keep you going. It will not do anything for you if you are sleep deprived though.

A survey found that individuals who drank large amounts of sugar after not receiving adequate sleep were actually more lethargic and slower than those who abstained. This is because high amounts of sugar will spike your blood insulin levels and lead to a “crash” of sorts. Ingesting high amounts of sugar is also not recommended for individuals seeking to lose weight or avoid diseases such as diabetes.

Guarana, Taurine, and Ginseng

The “natural’ ingredients found in energy drinks, which include guarana, taurine and ginseng, can be found in almost all brands and formulations. Guarana is a South American seed that contains high levels of caffeine (approximately twice as much per weight as coffee beans). It is only found in negligible amounts in practically every drink that cites it as an ingredient. This means that it poses no safety risk and is only used to drive the marketing of the beverages.

Ginseng is included primarily because it is thought to boost brain power. Research has concluded that it will do nothing for your physical alertness, but it may indeed be capable of enhancing your neurological processes. Not enough is included in energy drinks for it to present any harmful effects.

Taurine is one of the most prevalent amino acids in your brain. It can be found in various dosages throughout various brands of energy drinks. Most research has concluded that it does practically nothing when ingested in such a form, but in large doses, it can have potentially adverse effects.

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