Food & Nutrition

Here’s What Really Happens to Your Body When You Use Energy Drinks

Before you pop open another can of Red Bull, you should know the not-so-innocent effects energy drinks can have on your body.

Are energy drinks safe?

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In spite of the known dangers of energy drinks, the market for them is booming. In 2016, research from Mintel revealed that more energy drink products were launched globally in 2015 than in any year since 2008, with the number growing 29 percent between 2010 and 2015. In 2015, an incredible 8.8 billion liters were sold across the world, with the U.S. taking the largest slice of that market with volume sales of 3.3 billion liters. This is great news for energy drink manufacturers, but what are consumers really getting when they buy these drinks? Most of the major brands—such as Red Bull, Monster Energy, Rockstar Energy Drink, and NOS Energy Drink—have the same ingredients. We asked experts to reveal exactly what their ingredients do to our bodies. (By the way, here are nine ways you can boost energy naturally—without energy drinks.)

Energy drinks can cause dehydration

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The main source of energy in most energy products is caffeine. According to Caffeine Informer, Monster Energy, Rockstar Energy, and NOS Energy all have 160 mg of caffeine in a 16-ounce can. Red Bull has 80 mg of caffeine in an 8.4-ounce can. Caffeine has a diuretic effect, which means it increases urine production. In extreme cases, this can lead to dehydration. It can be particularly harmful in people who drink these products for the first time and don’t know to compensate with extra water, says nutritionist and author Beth Warren. The FDA’s official stance is that people shouldn’t consume more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, but food and drink manufacturers are not required by law to list the amount of caffeine their products contain. These are the unexpected signs of dehydration.

Energy drinks can increase heart rate

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As a diuretic, caffeine also poses a heart rate risk, says nutritionist Lisa Cohn. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology published a comprehensive study in 2015 that looked at the incidences of cardiac events after energy drink consumption among adolescents. They found that energy drink abuse among teens caused increased risk of cardiac events, especially in those with underlying heart conditions. There were even some cases of energy drink products causing changes in heart rhythm among teens with healthy hearts. This risk increases when the child engages in sports or exercise. In some cases, the high caffeine content of these drinks triggered undetected heart conditions, as in the case of a 17-year-old boy who showed up at the emergency department with sudden onset of palpitations after drinking a high caffeine pre-workout energy drink at the gym. Here’s everything you need to know about the world’s strongest coffee.

Energy drinks can damage teeth

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Energy drink products contain citric acid, which is highly corrosive to teeth, warns registered dental hygienist Anastasia Turchetta. A study comparing sports drinks and energy drinks found that energy products have significantly higher acidity and greater capacity to dissolve enamel compared to sports drinks. In fact, enamel loss after exposure to energy drinks was more than two times higher than after exposure to sports drinks. “Imagine the collision of citric acid with sugars, and you have the perfect storm for tooth enamel demineralization and/or tooth decay,” says Turchetta. “Once your enamel is gone, it won’t grow back! What’s next? Tooth sensitivity and thinner enamel, which will look more yellow and attract more stains.” What’s even more concerning is that the precise amount of citric acid is not required on the label, so we don’t actually know how much we’re getting. To protect your teeth, make sure you’re not making these common toothbrushing mistakes.

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