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The Health Risks of Energy Drinks

May 11, 2020
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Energy drinks are a relatively new phenomenon. The first energy drinks were invented sometime in the mid-20th century. Japan pioneered the market with their Lipovitan drink, consumed mostly by salarymen wanting to work longer hours without sleep being a concern. Inspired by the success of Lipovitan, American companies rushed to enter the growing energy drink industry, with several soft drink manufacturers releasing high-caffeine, high-sugar beverages meant to give you a boost. But it wasn’t until 1997, when Red Bull was introduced to the United States, that energy drinks spiked in popularity. 

 

Since the late 90s, many more companies have claimed a share of the energy drink market. Take a look at the soft drink aisle in any supermarket and you’ll find brightly colored cans with evocative names like Monster, Hype, Bang, and Rockstar. It’s no surprise that teenagers and young adults are drawn to these products, with their attractive names and color schemes. In fact, men aged 18 to 34 are the biggest consumers of energy drinks, and one-third of teenagers between the ages 12 and 17 drink them on a regular basis, according to the National Institute of Health.

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Caffeine and Sleep

Caffeine and Sleep

Since so many young people consume these drinks regularly, cautious parents may be worried about what their kids are putting into their bodies. Do they have any reason for concern, or should they view energy drinks as a harmless legal stimulant?

 

Unfortunately, energy drinks–despite their legal status and popularity–are far from harmless. A healthy adult who chooses to have a can of Monster every now and then isn’t at risk of suffering any health issues, but teenagers are far more prone to the consequences of energy drinks. What exactly is so bad about energy drinks, then?

 

To start off, energy drinks contain significant amounts of caffeine. Most health experts agree that young adults should limit their caffeine intake to 100mg a day, and kids should aim even lower. But a standard can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine, and a can of Monster has twice that amount. Teenagers who consume large amounts of caffeine can experience heart and blood vessel problems and elevated blood pressure. In addition, excess caffeine intake can lead to anxiety, digestive issues, insomnia, and dehydration–conditions that may affect a teen’s performance in school and general health.

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Anxiety Causes & Risk Factors

Anxiety Causes & Risk Factors

Besides their high caffeine content, most energy drinks contain unreasonable amounts of sugar. One 16-oz can of a typical energy drink can contain up to 62 grams of added sugar. The recommended daily sugar allowance for kids aged 2-18 is only 25 grams. 

 

Finally, research has shown that teenagers who consume energy drinks are at higher risk of developing serious behavioral and lifestyle issues, including increased levels of stress, aggressiveness, drug abuse, and even elevated risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. 

 

If your child has jumped on the energy drink bandwagon, consider sitting down with them and convincing them to switch to a healthier beverage.

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