A new review of current scientific knowledge on energy drinks found their advertised short-term benefits can be outweighed by serious health risks, which include risk-seeking behaviour, mental health problems, increased blood pressure, obesity and kidney damage. The study also highlighted the worrying trend of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. Previous research suggested that energy drinks can be fatal for those with heart disease.
The authors recommend restricted sales to children and adolescents and setting evidence-based caffeine limits. “We summarise the consequences of energy drink consumption, which include heart, kidney, and dental problems, as well as risk-seeking behavior and poor mental health,” said researcher Josiemer Mattei.
Mattei said the evidence suggests they are harmful to health and should be limited through stringent regulation by restricting their sales to children and adolescents as well as setting an evidence-based upper limit on the amount of caffeine.
Most energy drinks consist of similar ingredients — water, sugar, caffeine, certain vitamins, minerals and non-nutritive stimulants such as guarana, taurine and ginseng. Some can contain up to 100mg caffeine per fluid ounce, eight times more than a regular coffee at 12mg. A moderate daily caffeine intake of up to 400mg is recommended for adults, but little research exists on tolerable levels for adolescents and children.
The health risks associated with energy drinks are mostly attributed to their high sugar and caffeine levels. They range from risk-seeking behavior, such as substance misuse and aggression, mental health problems in the form of anxiety and stress, to increased blood pressure, obesity, kidney damage, fatigue, stomachaches and irritation.
The review highlighted another worrying trend of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. Individuals who do this consume more alcohol than if they were drinking alcohol alone. It is thought that energy drinks can mask the signs of alcohol inebriation, enabling an individual to consume more, increasing the likelihood of dehydration and alcohol poisoning.
The study is published in Frontiers in Public Health.