Can energy drinks cause long-term damage?

Energy drinks: Serious side effects possible

Status: 09/06/2019 2:46 p.m. | archive
Energy drinks are popular with teenagers, but they can have serious side effects.

Energy drinks promise higher performance and better concentration. The sweet drinks are particularly popular with young people: According to a survey, every fifth person between the ages of 10 and 16 regularly drinks energy drinks. But those who drink the stimulating drinks frequently and in large quantities increase their risk of a heart attack or even sudden cardiac death. Several deaths associated with energy drinks are already known from the USA.

Additives in energy drinks: maximum dose reached quickly

What distinguishes energy drinks from other sugary drinks is a mixture of additives - mainly caffeine, taurine, vitamin B, L-carnitine or ginseng extract. Caffeine and taurine are said to increase alertness and performance. But with energy drinks you quickly ingest too high amounts of these substances.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considers a maximum of three milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day for caffeine to be harmless. According to this, a young person weighing 50 kilograms exceeds his daily limit with just two small doses of an energy drink.

Side effects of caffeine: danger to the heart and circulation

Too much caffeine can have dramatic side effects:

  • Palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • sleep disorders
  • Muscle tremors
  • Anxiety
  • epileptic attacks
  • Cardiac arrhythmias

Energy drinks can put a strain on the cardiovascular system, especially in combination with alcohol. Because alcohol and caffeine increase the heart rate. The caffeine ensures that the body can tolerate more alcohol. If physical exercise such as dancing or sports is added, the heart is quickly overwhelmed. In the worst case, this can lead to a heart attack.

tip: At the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) provides a caffeine calculator that anyone can use to calculate whether the amount of caffeine consumed is acceptable.

Combination of active ingredients puts a strain on the heart

A study commissioned by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has shown: The combination of several active ingredients in energy drinks puts more strain on the heart than caffeine alone. In the study participants who had drunk one liter of the stimulant mix, the blood pressure rose more than in participants who had only consumed caffeine. An important ECG value, the QT time, also changed - a sign that cardiac arrhythmias can occur.

Who should do without energy drinks

Experts advise against the following consumers of energy drinks:

  • People with cardiovascular diseases
  • People taking ADHD drugs, sleeping pills, or sedatives
  • People who are sensitive to caffeine

Do B vitamins damage the liver?

There is ample evidence that consuming more energy drinks can also damage the liver. This is probably due to the addition of B vitamins, which in high concentrations can lead to liver damage.

Lots of sugar in energy drinks

A small can of energy drink contains 54 grams of sugar. That is more than twice the maximum daily dose recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). A permanently increased consumption of the drinks can also lead to obesity and diabetes.

Sales ban requested

Despite the health risks, the manufacturers of energy drinks only have to warn against excessive consumption in the small print on the can: "Increased caffeine content. Not recommended for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women."

Consumer advocates and the WHO are calling for a sales ban to children and young people. The Federal Ministry of Food has so far relied on education and has commissioned information material for schools, for example.

Experts on the subject

Prof. Michael Schulte-Markwort, Clinic Director
Specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychotherapy
Center for Psychosocial Medicine
Clinic for child and adolescent psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychosomatics
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf
Martinistrasse 52
20246 Hamburg

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Martin Smollich, pharmacologist
Institute for Nutritional Medicine
University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck Campus
Ratzeburger Allee 160
23538 Lübeck
(0451) 31 01 84 01

Prof. Dr. Roland Richard Tilz, Head of the Electrophysiology Section
Medical Clinic II - Cardiology, Angiology, Intensive Care Medicine
University heart center
University Medical Center Schleswig Holstein - Lübeck Campus
Ratzeburger Allee 160
23538 Lübeck
(0451) 500-44 580

Oliver Huizinga, Head of Research and Campaigns
foodwatch Germany
Brunnenstrasse 181
10119 Berlin

additional Information
DAK study: Almost every second student suffers from stress

Consumer center for energy drinks

Study from the University of Waterloo, Ontario

German fruit juice and soft drink regulation

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

Energy Drink Report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

American Heart Association (AHA), Energy Drinks Study

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Visit | 09/10/2019 | 8:15 pm