You’re most likely familiar with energy drinks. They’re the widely-popular beverages loaded with caffeine and other ingredients designed to help you sail through your workday, stay alert during an all-night cram study session or power through your workout. Anti-energy drinks, as you might have surmised, are the same concept in reverse. They are intended to help you relax, de-stress, unwind and chill.
Although you may be aware of some of the risks involved with consuming energy drinks (and anti-energy) in combination with alcohol, you might not realize that there are health risks when consuming energy drinks, even when you drink them individually.
What Are Energy Drinks?
Energy drinks are beverages that combine caffeine and other ingredients like guarana, taurine and B vitamins. As their name implies, they are meant to provide you with extra energy. However, neither the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nor the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provide approval for the ingredients in energy drinks.
Popularity of Energy Drinks
Although the FDA closely scrutinizes the safety of these types of beverages, sales in 2013 of energy drinks were up to 6.7 percent since 2012 in the United States alone.
Even in light of a tough economy and increased health scrutiny, there is still a growth spurt in the energy drink market. In fact, in 2014, some of the highest energy drink sales in the US included brands like:
10 Common Ingredients Found in Energy Drinks
You’ll find a blend of ingredients in just about every one of these energy beverages. Manufacturers are not required to list the exact amount of each ingredient in their energy drink products, either. Some of the common ingredients include:
Caffeine is known to boost alertness, energy and athletic performance when taken in small doses. The National Alcohol Beverage Control Association advises you to limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg at a time, and no more than a couple times a day.
Energy drinks, however, carry various levels of caffeine. For instance, there are 80 mg of caffeine in an 8-oz. can of Red Bull and 320 mg in a 32-oz. can of Monster. In addition, that 32-oz can of Monster could be considered four servings, but since you cannot reseal the can, you are more prone to drink the entire can in one sitting — just as you would a soda.
Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement thought to boost energy and improve memory. Some studies have found that it may also lower blood sugar levels and provide a boost to the immune system.
3. B vitamins
Many foods you eat contain B vitamins, and so do many of the energy supplement drinks you find on the grocery store shelves. B vitamins convert your food into energy. There are other common names for B vitamins that you might encounter, which include:
- Folic Acid (B9)
- Niacin (B3)
- Cyanocobalamin (B12)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Pantothenic Acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6)
You’ll find between 21 grams to 34 grams of sugar per 8-oz. can of an energy beverage. These sugars come in the form of glucose, sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. If you are drinking two to three cans of these drinks a day, you could actually be consuming four to six times the daily amount of sugar recommended. This is up to 180 mg of sugar, which can lead to dental and obesity problems.
Taurine is a common amino acid in your body that regulates your body’s water and mineral levels. It also supports the development of your brain. Some studies suggest it can enhance your athletic performance. You can find taurine naturally in milk, meat and seafood.
6. Green tea extract
This is an extract that delivers some caffeine. Studies have linked it to having cancer fighting antioxidants as well.
7. Guarana (also referred to as Guaranine)
Guarana, a South American bean, has twice as much caffeine as you would find in coffee beans. It’s used as a stimulant, and its inclusion in energy beverages is intended to provide you with a little bit more of a jolt than caffeine does.
This ingredient is an amino acid that naturally occurs in your body and affects your energy and metabolism levels. Typically, your body makes all the L-Carnitine it requires.
These are molecules that help your body gracefully prevent and recover from free radical damage. Vitamins A, C and E as well as selenium are the popular antioxidants you will find in many energy drinks. These antioxidants help prevent cellular damage and fight off illness. You wouldn’t want to depend on energy beverages alone, however, to get your recommended dose of these essential antioxidants as they normally contain very small amounts.
Your body naturally creates this ingredient, but you can also obtain it from eating meat. It helps supply your muscles with energy, and is typically found in the sports drinks that bodybuilders consume.
Amateur and professional athletes often use it to increase muscle mass and to improve athletic performance. It’s also used in treating certain medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, depression and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Understand the Dangers of Energy Drinks
Dr. Stacy Fisher, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is seeing an increase in patients complaining of certain symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations and nausea. Often, the issue is that doctors don’t make the connection between these symptoms and energy drinks.
Excess Caffeine Risks
Energy shots and drinks tend to come with high amounts of caffeine, typically to boast about how powerful they are. In one consumer group study, testers found 247 milligrams of caffeine in one energy drink. This is in comparison to an average eight-ounce cup of coffee, which contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine.
When caffeine is consumed at higher levels, it can mimic amphetamine poisoning (known as caffeine toxicity) and lead to psychosis, cardiac arrhythmias and seizures. In rare cases, it can cause death, according to a 2012 Medical Journal of Australia study.
There are also a variety of other ingredients in energy drinks, and the accuracy of the energy drink’s label isn’t fully regulated. Therefore, an individual energy beverage could contain an amount of caffeine that is hidden behind the label’s “proprietary blend,” for example. And even if the amount of caffeine is listed, it can be up to 20 percent inaccurate.
Behaviors & Health Risks
There are concerns when it comes to the quality and accuracy of the labeling on energy drinks. The US doesn’t strictly regulate how they are manufactured. These beverages contain an “energy or proprietary blend,” which may contain varying amounts of caffeine, B vitamins, taurine, guarana and glucuronolactone. These additives by themselves don’t typically pose any harm when consumed in safe amounts. However, if you were to combine them with large amounts of caffeine, it could lead to severe complications, which include seizures or cardiac arrest.
In addition, use of these energy drinks is often linked with certain behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and marijuana and other illegal drug use among young adults and adolescents — based on a 2008 study that the Journal of Adolescent Health published.
Combining Energy Drinks and Depressants (Alcohol)
Alcohol is a known depressant or a so-called “downer.” It lowers the arousal or stimulation centers (neurotransmission levels) of the brain. Red Bull and other energy beverages act as stimulators to raise levels of nervous or physiological activity. Energy drinks tend to mask the effects of alcohol, thereby making you feel like you are too alert to be intoxicated, which can make you drink more.
Other Health Risks You Should Know About
Even as the popularity of energy drinks has grown, they are under scrutiny for possible dangerous and serious health effects, such as:
- Cardiac arrest. If you have an underlying heart condition, you’re at a higher risk of going into cardiac arrest after drinking only a few energy drinks. In fact, a new study has shown these drinks to lead to stronger heart contractions, which can be highly damaging to your heart if you have certain cardiac conditions.
- Increased anxiety. If you have genetic variations in your adenosine receptors, you might feel more anxiety when drinking energy drinks or other caffeinated beverages. You could even suffer a full-blown panic attack if you consume large amounts of caffeine.
- Type 2 diabetes. There is a lot of sugar added to these beverages. In the long run, too much sugar can wear out your pancreas cells that produce insulin. This can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
- Behavior problems in teens. When teens consume too much caffeine, an abundance of issues can occur. Some of these potential problems include hyperactivity, substance abuse, depression, heart palpitations or cardiac arrest. Heart problems associated with teens and an excess of caffeine are especially dangerous because teens (and adults) are likely to be unaware of any issues until it’s too late.
These are only some of the health risks that can affect you when consuming too many energy drinks. There are dozens more you should be concerned about as well.
What Are Anti-Energy Drinks?
Anti-energy drinks have relaxation ingredients in them such as kava root, melatonin or valerian root. You can find them in natural food stores with a few popular name brands such as:
- Malava Novocaine
- Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda
- Ex Chill
- Slow Cow
They are not marketed as medication. However, for many people, they act in the same way as having a few beers or taking mild prescription sedative drugs.
Are anti-energy drinks bad for you? For most adults, the ingredients are fairly safe. However, you should always check with your doctor before mixing them with other medicines or if you have any type of pre-existing illness, according to Natural Standard Research Collaboration’s, co-founder, Catherine Ulbricht.
The ingredients in anti-energy drinks have not been studied well, she says. “I don’t mean to sound scary, but it’s not water,” she adds.
The FDA classifies anti-energy drinks as dietary supplements since they contain at least one ingredient that does not fall under the classification of conventional food. Dietary supplements are not reviewed by the FDA for their safety, efficacy or their quantity of active ingredients.
The Chill Group Inc. is a company based in Venice, CA. Founder and chief executive, Max Baumann, says that when consumers feel as though they have had too much caffeine, they turn to “Just Chill” in the afternoon or evening to calm down. It contains L-theanine, which is intended to help people relax.
The drink is not supposed to knock people out. It’s just meant to calm them in situations that might produce a fight-or-flight response, such as a stressful business meeting, Baumann adds.
Common Ingredients Found in Anti-Energy Drinks
Relaxation or anti-energy drinks are made to help relax your mind, body and soul. The common ingredients you’ll find in most of these beverages include:
- Valerian root
- Passion flower
- Lemon balm
- Rose hips
According to Dr. Matthew Seamon, who is the College of Pharmacy at Nova Southeastern University’s assistant professor, “Everybody is searching for some type of effect somewhere, but supplements like these come with risks.”
Understand the Dangers of Anti-Energy Drinks
Energy drinks’ side effects can be quite dangerous. Did you expect anything less of anti-energy drinks? Here are some of the possible side effects of anti-energy drinks:
- They can contain marijuana or other ingredients that imitate the drug.
- They provide no assurance of safety since they lack scientific studies.
- They could potentially lead to addiction due to their desirable calming effects.
- They are easily accessible at convenience stores and on college campuses.
- They contain sedatives which act like tranquilizers and can lead to slurred speech, poor judgment, staggering gait and uncertain, slow reflexes when consumed in higher doses.
The manufacturers of these beverages claim them to be safe for teens — providing a safe way to take the edge off when under stressful situations without having to turn to alcohol or drugs. But, these anti-energy drinks can be just as harmful, experts warn.
The sad news is these anti-energy beverages are just another blend that young adults and teens have access to that can impair their cognitive abilities, impact their safe driving habits and lead to mixing with alcohol or drugs — which could have catastrophic results.
Aside from that, there is a concern among health officials that these drinks are related too closely to the “sip and syrup” or “purple drank” concoctions, which could lead teens to try these types of illegal substances down the road.
Know the Facts and Stats About Injuries and Deaths Related to Energy Drinks
Since excessive caffeine intake can lead to behavioral and medical consequences, energy drinks are becoming a growing health problem. Some surveys report that 30 to 50 percent of young adults and adolescents consume energy beverages.
These drinks can cause serious adverse effects due to their unregulated amounts of caffeine. This is especially true in children, young adults or adolescents who have diabetes, seizures, behavioral or mood disorders, cardiac abnormalities or if they are taking certain medications.
In 2007, there were over 5,400 caffeine overdoses reported in connection to energy drinks. And 46 percent happened in young adults under the age of 19.
If this isn’t enough to scare you, the FDA obtained documents that showed 17 unreported deaths that happened prior to 2012 which were linked to energy drinks. The adverse event reports the FDA collected since 2004 showed that energy beverages were linked to a total of 34 deaths with 22 of them being linked to the popular 5 Hour Energy drink. Monster was linked to 11 deaths, and Rockstar was linked to one death so far.
Research has associated problematic behaviors in college students who drink these beverages. These behaviors include fighting, sexual risk taking, marijuana use, prescription drug misuse and drinking.
In 2011, the number of energy drink-related emergency department visits doubled to over 20,700 visits from 2007, when 10,000 visits were reported.
In another case, a 14 year old girl from Maryland died from a heart arrhythmia because she drank two large cans of Monster. This happened over two consecutive days where she drank one can one day and the other the following morning. It was said she died of caffeine toxicity induced cardiac arrhythmia that further complicated her already existing heart condition, according to medical examiner reports and an autopsy.
Get Help for an Energy Drink Addiction
Energy drink health risks are a real problem. People can be addicted to just about anything, and energy and anti-energy drinks are no exception. The large amounts of caffeine and sugar that are added to energy drinks can cause to you form a strong dependency on these products in order to function normally.
If you think you might have an addiction to energy drinks, especially drinking energy drinks combined with alcohol or drug use, it’s important you get help right away. Contact 12 Keys and start your journey to recovery today.