We all know too much caffeine isn’t good for you, but when it comes to energy drinks, it seems the health hazards seriously outweigh any benefits. A shocking new study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, has made global headlines for revealing the risks associated with energy drink consumption – and while the symptoms of caffeine overdose are nothing new, the dangers of the drinks themselves are far worse than you may have realised.
Our consumption of energy drinks is set to become a “significant public health problem in the future” – with more children drinking them than ever before, and the long-term effects of ingredients found in energy drinks such as guarana, taurine and glucuronolactone currently unknown. Here are the seven biggest reasons we’re being encouraged to ditch energy drinks for good…
1. Mental Health Issues
Adolescents who drink energy drinks have been found to have a greater risk of depression and an increased risk of suicide. In one study, adults who reported drinking energy drinks were more likely to be stressed, depressed, and dissatisfied with their quality of sleep. Energy drink intake was closely associated with suicidal ideation, a suicide plan, or a suicide attempt, and the risk for mental health issues was higher when participants drank more energy drinks.
2. Kidney Damage
Excess caffeine has been linked to kidney disease as it can cause high blood pressure, and both caffeine and the popular energy drink ingredient taurine (a type of amino acid) have been found to worsen chronic kidney disease. It’s debatable whether ingesting taurine in small amounts can damage healthy kidneys, but – as the scientists said – we don’t currently know the long-term effects of frequent taurine consumption.
3. Type 2 Diabetes
Energy drinks increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes – even the ‘diet’ or ‘no-added-sugar’ versions – as high consumption of caffeine reduces insulin sensitivity. Many energy drinks contain eight times more caffeine than coffee and even more worrying, the average ‘full-sugar’ energy drink contains around 54g of sugar – far more than the recommended daily limit of 30g – which can increase the risk of developing both type 2 diabetes and obesity.
4. Substance Abuse
Consumption of energy drinks among adolescents has been linked to substance abuse including tobacco consumption, binge drinking and illegal drugs. In adults, energy drink consumption may be a risk factor for alcohol dependence even if not mixed with alcohol – scientists believe this phenomenon is due to the neurological effects of caffeine increasing the tendency for addiction.
5. Risk-Seeking Behaviour
Mixing energy drinks with alcohol has been found to increase the ‘adverse’ consequences of drinking – such as drunk driving, injury and fighting – by boosting risk-seeking behaviour. The drinks’ high caffeine content reduces drowsiness, without diminishing the effects of alcohol, resulting in a state of 'wide awake drunkenness' which leads to people drinking more alcohol, underestimating how drunk they are and overestimating their motor skills.
6. Cardiovascular Problems
Overconsumption of energy drinks can spell serious trouble for your heart. Excess caffeine consumption can cause high blood pressure, an increased heart rate and heart palpitations, and energy drinks have been linked to cardiac arrest and even death in rare cases.
7. Tooth Erosion
The acidic pH and high-sugar content of many energy drinks can cause big problems for teeth, including dental cavities, tooth erosion and ‘smear layer’ removal (which can cause pain and sensitivity).