Energy Drinks

Frank LoVecchio, DO is a medical toxicologist with the Banner Poison Control Center. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call (800) 222-1222.

Question: Is my favorite energy drink safe?

Answer: Publicity surrounding energy drinks and a possible connection to several deaths has made people question the safety of these drinks. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the situation, but evidence does not suggest that moderate consumption of these drinks is dangerous to healthy people. The FDA decided to investigate after receiving 90 incident reports, with 30 of them detailing serious or life-threatening reactions potentially linked to energy drinks.

Most energy drinks claim that their high levels of sugar and caffeine boost energy. Though sugar will spike blood glucose levels, it won't necessarily provide a person with more energy. Caffeine, however, is a stimulant proven to make a person feel more awake and alert.

While small amounts of caffeine are not generally dangerous to most people, large amounts can increase blood pressure and accelerate the heart rate. For individuals with underlying heart conditions, these side effects can be especially hazardous.

Unfortunately, ingredients in energy drinks are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. For people trying to avoid caffeine by choosing a caffeine-free option, understanding what else is hiding in that drink is important. Ingredients like guarana, ephedra, taurine, ginseng and green tea either contain large amounts of caffeine or can mimic the effects of caffeine. Some energy drinks also have significant levels of B vitamins, which do not act as a stimulant but can create an allergic reaction in some people.

To protect your health, read the ingredients on the drink container and know their effects. Also, talk with your doctor before introducing an energy drink or caffeine or herbal supplements into your diet. Remember, getting adequate rest, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are the best ways to boost energy, but if the energy drink is a must, keep to one serving daily.

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