How the Drawbacks of Energy Drinks Far Outweigh Potential Benefits

Cans of energy drinks

Up to half of all teens and young adults consume energy drinks – those high-caffeine beverages that purport to improve academic and sports performance – and the number of people consuming them is on the rise. Some schools even stock them in their vending machines.

A recent study shows, however, that the negative consequences of using these drinks far outweigh any potential benefits.

The study, by UH Rainbow pediatric gastroenterologist Senthilkumar Sankararaman, MD, and colleagues, took a comprehensive look at the research on energy drinks – who uses them and their effects on health and well-being.

The researchers concluded that the negative consequences of consuming these drinks far outweigh any potential benefits.

Research Findings

Their findings, published in the journal Current Nutrition Reports, show:

  • Research suggests that more than half of energy drink users experience negative effects, such as racing heart, rapid speech, gastrointestinal upset, sleep disturbance, anxiety and tremors.
  • Some studies also have reported serious events such as a seizures, stroke, suicidal ideation, hallucinations, manic psychosis, arrhythmias, cardiac ischemia, aneurysm, myocardial infarction and cardiac arrest related to energy drink consumption.
  • Chronic energy drink use is associated with increased stress, decreased sleep, anxiety and depression.
  • Using energy drinks in early adolescence may be a harbinger for increased risk of alcohol use later in life.
  • Combining energy drinks with alcohol is widely prevalent, especially among young adults. Achieving a “wide-awake drunk” state can lead to binge drinking and driving while intoxicated.
  • The energy drink market is the fastest-growing segment of the beverage industry, and marketing for these drinks is mainly targeted to teens and young adults.
  • A significant number of adolescent energy drink consumers exceed the recommended amount for adults of no more than two energy drinks per day.

Given these facts, Dr. Sankararaman argues that tighter regulation of energy drinks is urgently needed, as they are not stringently regulated compared with caffeinated soft drinks.

“Some countries have banned these drinks for kids; some have an explicit warning on the label that it should not be mixed with alcohol and that they have high caffeine content,” he says. “Public education can begin through primary care visits for routine care, too, as only about half of the clinicians provide regular counseling to adolescents on energy drink consumption.”

Concerning Trend

The increased use of energy drinks is an alarming trend, Dr. Sankararaman says.

“Because energy drinks are available everywhere and so popular, there’s the belief that they’re OK to drink,” he says. “But because of their high caffeine content, young consumers can easily get into trouble.”

For parents and kids who claim they need energy drinks to keep up with their school schedule, Dr. Sankararaman has a simple answer: Encourage sleep hygiene.

“If a kid is tired, they should sleep,” he says. “It’s good for their maturing brains. There is no good reason for them to have an energy drink and stay awake.”

Related links

UH Rainbow Pediatric Nutrition Services 


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