(Health Secrets) Is there something not to like about having more energy and alertness, especially if it comes from cans or bottles labeled as herbal or natural? Plenty of people have gotten on the energy drink bandwagon, and almost every kind of drink that can, by the longest stretch, call itself an energy drink is doing so. In fact, energy drinks have become a modern day phenomenon, with tens of millions now being consumed daily, while those who produce them are smiling. But two things about energy drinks need to be understood. First, energy drinks may advertize themselves as healthy, but many contain unhealthy ingredients and offer potentially dangerous consequences to your health.
Among the more common and unwelcome side effects of energy drinks are elevated heart rates, hypertension, anxiety, headaches and interrupted sleep patterns. A recent report in the medical journal Pediatrics warned against energy drinks and cited potential harms including heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death.
Poison control centers have started tracking side effects of energy drinks and overdoses nationwide. 677 cases were reported during the first three months following the implementation of tracking. The chart’s list of reported energy drink-related symptoms included seizures, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, chest pain, high blood pressure and irritability. It is likely that many more such cases were not reported.
Sugar and caffeine are the two most common ingredients found in energy drinks. Both provide temporary stimulation but can result in actual long term energy loss due to stressing the adrenal glands and causing adrenal fatigue.
Diabetes is just one of a huge number of health risks caused by processed sugar. Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Large amounts of sugar can ultimately overwhelm the pancreas, the organ that generates insulin to offset sugar intake. If the pancreas becomes exhausted by being overworked from too much sugar, diabetes can set in.
There are energy drinks containing up to 7 times as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Although small amounts of caffeine are not generally considered dangerous, too much can over stimulate the central nervous system and produce dangerously elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Caffeine is addictive, and its withdrawal symptoms include headaches and irritability. In addition, caffeine causes a loss in valuable B vitamins needed for normal healthy energy. If you are determined to keep on with energy drinks, be sure to take a vitamin B supplement daily.
Instead of risking the products to negative publicity for containing too much sugar, dangerous artificial sweeteners are often used in energy drinks. The most dangerous of these is aspartame. However increasingly, another sugar substitute, Sucralose, is being used, probably because Sucralose is relatively new on the market and does not have the negative baggage of aspartame. Sucralose is a chlorinated organic compound, a chemical group which includes several compounds known to be harmful to animals and plants, and which has been linked to birth defects and other prenatal conditions. The body does not recognize artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose as food, but instead essentially processes them as toxins.
More potentially dangerous ingredients commonly found in energy drinks include:
*Sodium benzoate, which in a recent study conducted by an expert in molecular biology and biotechnology, was linked to cell damage and an increase in the production of free radicals. Even more concerning, sodium benzoate in combination with vitamin C causes the potent carcinogen benzene.
*Phenylalanine, which is a naturally occurring essential amino acid, is also a neurotoxin and is one of the three main ingredients which make up aspartame. Too much can excite the neurons in the brain to the point of cellular death.
*Guarana, or guaranine, comes from the seeds of the guarana plant, which contain up to 3 to 4 times as much caffeine as coffee beans.
*Ephedra has been described as a drug that increases heart rate and blood pressure at low doses and causes strokes, seizures, and possibly even death at high doses.
There are far safer options for achieving greater energy than energy drinks, such as eating super foods powders for example. The very best long term option is an active lifestyle combined with adequate sleep, avoidance of energy robbing toxins and stress, and a healthy nutrient-dense diet.