With so many people dealing with packed schedules, demanding jobs, and not enough sleep, it's no wonder the sales of energy drinks have soared in recent years. For people who don’t want to get their kick with coffee, the appeal of a soda-like energy drink is often more palatable — but are they a good substitute for a cup of joe?
Unfortunately, mounting evidence says that these drinks aren’t good for you — and may be downright dangerous. They’re often loaded with sugar and calories, and even the so-called “diet” ones may contain more than you bargained for — such as potentially unsafe herbs and stimulants, as well as high levels of caffeine.
Energy drinks, coffee, and college
Because it’s much easier to down a tiny energy “shot” or gulp a fruity-tasting drink instead of sipping coffee, users may be more likely to overdo it. These drinks are also a favorite with young people, such as college students, who pull “all-nighters” to study for exams or finish term papers. For those who don’t care for the taste of coffee, these drinks seem like the ideal solution.
Too much caffeine can make you jittery and anxious and unable to concentrate — but at worst, could cause dangerous heart arrhythmias. Many of these drinks contain more caffeine than a cup of coffee as well; some contain double or triple the amount — or more.
Heart health risks
A new study shows that even young, healthy adults experience an unhealthy, dramatic rise in blood pressure and fight-or-flight stress hormone levels after just one energy drink that contains a variety of stimulants. These blood pressure spikes and hormone responses may increase the risk of heart disease over time — which is the number one killer of men and women in our country already.
Caffeine and alcohol — a risky combination
Another trend that has become more worrisome to health experts is the mixing of energy drinks and alcoholic beverages. The caffeine and stimulants in the energy drinks can offset the effects of alcohol — allowing the user to drink much more without “feeling drunk.” This sets a person up for binge drinking and raising blood alcohol levels to dangerous extremes. It also puts them at risk for alcohol-related crimes such as rape or drunken driving. In severe cases, a person could be hospitalized or die from alcohol poisoning.
The CDC has spoken out against this combination, and forced manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CABs) to remove caffeine from their products.
Caffeine can be a safe stimulant for most people when used properly and in moderation. Coffee and tea have been shown to have health benefits such as antioxidants, so if you need a little pick-me-up, reach for a cup of the natural stuff — and skip the manufactured energy drinks.
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