July 13, 2017 — Energy drinks usually contain high levels of caffeine and other ingredients, but few people understand exactly how energy drinks affect the body.
Here is a list of common ingredients in energy drinks and how they work.
Caffeine is the most widely-used stimulant drug in the world. It is found naturally in over 60 plants, including coffee beans and tea leaves. Caffeine temporarily boosts energy, alertness, and mood.
Energy drinks typically contain high levels of caffeine, but the amount varies greatly and may not be listed on the ingredients. High doses of caffeine can cause irregular heart rhythm, heart attack, or cardiac arrest.
For example, an 8.4-oz can of Red Bull contains about 80-mg of caffeine. Higher doses of caffeine are often packed into smaller “shot” energy drinks — a 1.9-oz shot of 5 Hour Energy® Extra Strength contains 242-mg of caffeine, and a 2.5-oz Rockstar® Energy Shot contains 229-mg.
Ginseng is a slow-growing plant found in eastern Asia and North America. There is no evidence that ginseng boosts energy levels, but some evidence that it actually decreases exercise endurance and lowers blood-sugar levels, which is a problem for diabetic people.
Perhaps the most overlooked energy-boosting ingredient is pure sugar. For example, an 8-oz can of Full Throttle® Energy contains 58 grams (g) of sugar — more than twice the amount of sugar in an 8-oz can of Monster Energy (27-g sugar) or Red Bull Energy (27-g sugar). Consumption of high levels of sugar causes blood-sugar levels to spike and the body releases insulin, which results in a “crash” later.
Taurine is an amino acid found in animal tissue that is also made naturally by the human body. There is no actual evidence that taurine provides energy, but high levels of taurine are found in many energy drinks — including Red Bull, Monster Energy, Rockstar, and NOS.
B-vitamins are common in energy drinks, listed on the ingredients as niacin, folic acid, riboflavin, or cyanocobalamin. There is no evidence that they actually boost energy levels unless you have a B-vitamin deficiency. Furthermore, extremely high doses of B-vitamins are found in many energy drinks — and they may be harmful to the liver. There are reports of sudden liver inflammation (acute hepatitis) as a result of consuming of B-vitamins in energy drinks in as little as 10 days.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea contains low levels of caffeine, and some energy drinks contain “green tea extract” or “EGCG” as an energy-boosting ingredient. Like B-vitamins, green tea supplements are also associated with many reports of liver inflammation (acute hepatitis).
Glucuronolactone and L-carnitine
Glucuronolactone is a naturally-occurring chemical made by the body (and found in plant gums). L-carnitine is an amino acid that is made by the liver and kidneys. There is no evidence that either ingredient boosts energy levels at the amounts found in most energy drinks.
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