5 health risks linked to energy drinks

Concerns over the potentially harmful effects of energy drinks, especially when they’re combined with alcohol, have been growing in recent years.

The researchers defined energy drinks as those containing caffeine, taurine, vitamins, herbal supplements and sugar or sweeteners that are marketed to improve energy, weight loss, stamina, athletic performance or concentration. They said that, although healthy people can tolerate moderate caffeine intake, heavy caffeine intake has been associated with some serious adverse effects such as seizures, strokes and sudden death.

They also said that reports in the media and a small number of case studies have associated these types of adverse effects with the use of energy drinks, warranting their further investigation. They suggested that children with certain conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, may be at greater risk of adverse effects.

According to Livescience.com, here are five worrisome health issues that have been linked to downing stimulating drinks:

(1) Heart problems: Caffeine and other compounds in energy drinks seem to boost heart rate and blood pressure. Caffeine can cause heart cells to release calcium, which may affect heartbeat, leading to arrhythmia. The drinks may also disrupt the normal balance of salts in the body, which has been linked to arrhythmia as well.

(2) The risk of miscarriage: Studies examining the effects of caffeine on miscarriage have been mixed. Because study findings have not been conclusive, it is advised that pregnant women limit caffeine consumption to 200 mg per day.

(3) An increased risk of alcohol injury and dependence: Studies suggest that combining alcohol and energy drinks can be dangerous. Although caffeine is a stimulant, research suggests it does not counteract the sedating effects of alcohol. There is concern that mixing alcohol and energy drinks may keep people awake for a longer period of time, allowing them to consume more alcohol than they ordinarily would.

(4) Risk of drug abuse: Another study found that energy drink consumption in the second year of college was associated with an increased risk of prescription drug abuse (use of stimulants or prescription painkillers without a prescription) in the third year of college.

(5) Impaired cognition: Although some students rely on energy drinks to pull all-nighters to study for exams, there’s some evidence that the excessive levels of caffeine in the drinks impair cognition. A small 2010 study found that drinking moderate amounts of caffeine, about 40 mg, improved performance on a test of reaction time, but drinking higher amounts — equivalent to the levels found in a (250 ml) can, or 80 mg — worsened performance on the reaction test....