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Updated 17 August 2016

Energy drinks – the good, the bad and the ugly

Energy drinks can sometimes give you more of a kick than you bargained for. This is what you need to know.

Energy drinks are among the most popular drinks on the market despite the fact that there is quite a lot of controversy surrounding their ingredients. Here is what you need to know about how and when to consume energy drinks. 

Caffeine and other stimulants

It’s important to note the difference between an energy drink and a sports drink.  Energy drinks contain varying amounts of caffeine, taurine, guarana, amino acids, vitamins and sugar and are designed to give you a “boost” mentally and physically. 

Sports drinks contain carbohydrates, primarily in the form of sugars and glucose. They also contain electrolytes to replace chemicals lost through sweat to keep you going on hot days or in sports events lasting longer than an hour. 

The primary difference between the two is the caffeine and other stimulants in energy drinks. Many energy drinks also claim to include amino acids and vitamins, which together with the carbohydrates, caffeine and stimulants boost performance, concentration and endurance. 

The good

In the instances where energy drinks do include the claimed vitamins and minerals, these could be beneficial. It is, however, far healthier to get your vitamins from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other natural food sources. 

The bad

Unfortunately, most energy drinks are loaded with sugar, and in some cases one 250 ml serving can contain up to 27 g of sugar. This means that drinking more than one of these at a time can contribute to weight gain, insulin resistance, and even type 2 diabetes.

The ugly

Drinking more than one energy drink a day may overstimulate the nervous system and contribute to restlessness, anxiety and irritability. A typical can of energy drink may contain up to 300 mg of caffeine, from added caffeine and natural sources.

High levels of caffeine can cause an increase in blood pressure and increased heart rate. Too much caffeine can also cause dehydration.

This, in turn, can affect the regulation of body temperature, reduce plasma volume and upset the cardiovascular system. Drinking energy drinks in excess, and mixing them with alcohol can lead to an overdose of certain ingredients. 

A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia states that “the phenomenon of mixing energy drinks with alcohol, stimulants and other co-ingestants is clearly a serious concern” and that “consumers are likely to be unaware of the variation in chemical composition and caffeine dosage in energy drinks, and with little or no warnings on products, the potential for overdose and poisoning remains ever-present”.

Caffeine toxicity can mimic amphetamine (drug) poisoning and result in seizures, psychosis, cardiac arrhythmias and, rarely, death.  Instead of reaching for that energy drink, rather focus on eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly to naturally improve your energy levels.

This article is provided through a sponsorship from Pfizer in the interests of continuous medical education. Notwithstanding Pfizer's sponsorship of this publication, neither Pfizer nor its subsidiary or affiliated companies shall be liable for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the misuse of the information provided in this publication. 

Readers are advised to consult their health care practitioner for specific information on personal health matters as this is not the intention or purpose of the publication. Specific medical advice or recommendations on the clinical management of patients will not be provided by Pfizer.

In this regard Pfizer does not support the use of products for off label indications, nor dosing which falls outside the approved label recommendations and readers must refer to the package insert of any product for full prescribing guidelines.


Disclaimer - This article is provided through a sponsorship from Pfizer in the interests of continuous medical education. Notwithstanding Pfizer's sponsorship of this publication, neither Pfizer nor its subsidiary or affiliated companies shall be liable for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the misuse of the information provided in this publication.

Readers are advised to consult their health care practitioner for specific information on personal health matters as this is not the intention or purpose of the publication. Specific medical advice or recommendations on the clinical management of patients will not be provided by Pfizer. In this regard Pfizer does not support the use of products for off label indications, nor dosing which falls outside the approved label recommendations and readers must refer to the Package Insert of any product for full prescribing guidelines.

Sources:

Australian Drug FoundationThe Medical Journal of AustraliaEat Right Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

 
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