Energy drinks are sugar-sweetened beverages containing caffeine, added sugar, or other sweeteners. Such as sucrose, fruit juice concentrates, high fructose corn syrup, and more. Let’s explore the Dangers of Energy Drinks plus Healthy Alternatives

Energy drinks are generally full of calories. And even though you may ingest many calories by drinking them, you’re less likely to feel full as in after a solid meal. This doesn’t allow calorie compensation during a real meal, thus leading to an overconsumption of calories.

Research shows that an average can of energy drink contains 150 calories, and if you were to drink a can every day without cutting back on other sources of calories, you could end up gaining 5 pounds in just a year.

Beyond weight gain, high consumption of energy drinks may negatively affect your health in different ways.

Also, check out, Is Milk Bad For You? and Is Acai Good For You?

This article goes more profoundly on the dangers of energy drinks on your health and what you can drink instead. 

Energy drinks close up cans

1. Increased weight gain

Consuming a high-calorie diet is never healthy, but energy drinks are especially dangerous because they add hundreds of calories per day. When you drink an energy drink, even if it’s just one or every once in a while, your risk of becoming overweight or obese increases significantly. This is especially true for kids and teenagers who are still growing—and developing bad habits that may follow them into adulthood.

On top of all that, regularly consuming excess sugar has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. In fact, drinking just one 16-ounce energy drink each day has been shown to increase waist circumference by up to 3 inches in six months!

Besides, these drinks are full of calories and don’t make you feel full, so, you’re likely to consume more calories than you need, thus leading to weight gain in both adults and children.

In one study, consuming energy drinks rich in high fructose corn syrup enhanced calorie overconsumption, leading to obesity.

In another study conducted on children, an additional serving of sugar-sweetened drinks resulted in a 60% increase in childhood obesity.

If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current size, it’s important to avoid sugary beverages like energy drinks altogether.

2. Increases belly fat

Studies show that frequent energy drink consumption leads to increased belly fat, which is one of the easiest places for body fat to accumulate. 

If wondering how this happens, the fructose in energy drinks has been linked to fat accumulation around the midsection, often referred to as belly fat or visceral fat.

Belly fat is a huge risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, asthma, breast cancer, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

In one study, consuming fructose-containing beverages increased visceral fat, while glucose-containing beverages increased skin fat, often not associated with metabolic conditions.

3. May lead to kidney damage

According to research, energy drinks, including soda and sweetened fruit drinks, may increase your risk of developing kidney damage by up to 60%.

The National Kidney Foundation states that drinking more than one diet soda every day for an extended period will decrease your kidney function by 30 percent.

In another research, consuming carbonated beverages may increase the risk for kidney disease. Carbonated drinks also contain phosphoric acid, which promotes urinary changes that promote kidney stones.

4. Increases the risk of type 2 diabetes

Large-scale studies indicate that regular consumption of sweetened beverages contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

A 2010 meta-analysis by Harvard University found that regular consumption of 1 or more cans of sugary drinks per day increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent.

In another study, researchers looked at the effects of sugar consumption and diabetes in 175 countries. They found that every 150 sugar calories per day increased the risk of diabetes by 1.1 percent.

In addition, energy drinks are full of fructose which has been linked to insulin resistance, the main problem in type 2 diabetes and a stepping stone to heart disease.

5. Bad teeth

Sugar in energy drinks interacts with the bacteria in your mouth to produce acid. The acid attacks your teeth and dissolves the enamel, which allows the bacteria to invade the corroded areas causing cavities and tooth decay. With this happening, keep in mind that soft drinks also contain acid, making the damage worse.

Man drinking energy drink while studying in the dark

6. Energy drinks may increase your risk for heart disease

High consumption of sugar can cause inflammation and high blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, too much sugar can increase your triglyceride levels but lower good cholesterol, which plays an important role in maintaining a healthy heart.

Moreover, the caffeine in energy drinks may increase heart rate, high blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety. Over time, this may increase the risk of developing heart disease, among other complications.

In one study, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increased the risk of coronary heart disease.

In another 20-year study, researchers found that drinking a can of soft drink a day had a 205 increased risk of developing or dying from a heart attack compared to those who rarely consumed soft drinks.

7. Weakens bone

A comparative study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that cola was associated with low bone mineral density in some bones, such as the hip and femoral in women who consumed cola daily compared to those who drank cola once a month.

8. May cause fatty liver

Energy drinks are high in fructose, however, this fructose can only be metabolized in the liver. With too much consumption, the liver becomes overwhelmed, and the process of lipogenesis to convert the fructose into fat is instead stimulated. So any excess fructose is converted into fat.

While some fat can be released into the bloodstream as triglycerides, some will remain and accumulate in the liver. Over time this can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver.

If left untreated, fatty liver may progress to cause inflammation (steatohepatitis), which may progress to cirrhosis and further complicate to cause ascites, variceal bleeding, encephalopathy, and liver failure.

9. Causes brain damage overtime

If you drink energy drinks too often, you might actually be doing serious damage to your brain. Whether you’re ingesting caffeine or other energy-boosting chemicals like taurine, they can accumulate in your system and do long-term damage.

One study published in Neuroscience Letters found that such frequent exposure can cause severe brain cell death and contribute to mental illness later in life. The research is still preliminary, but it’s a good idea to steer clear of these drinks if you want to protect your brain health and memory function as much as possible.

10. Disrupts Sleep Cycle

Your body needs a certain amount of sleep each night in order to function properly. Excessive use of energy drinks can interfere with your sleep quality, causing you to fall into dangerous patterns that leave you feeling groggy and less able to perform during your waking hours. This could lead to reduced productivity and a host of other health problems down the road.

The best way to avoid side effects like these is by getting regular, good-quality sleep on a consistent basis. Try aiming for 7-8 hours every night, and if you find yourself needing an extra boost during particularly difficult workdays or days off, try some exercises such as walking up and down the stairs if at work, or any other simple exercise at home instead of relying on an energy drink for a quick fix.

11. Can cause acne, allergies and other skin problems

Caffeine and sugar, which are in many energy drinks, can cause acne, skin rashes, and allergic reactions. Since some energy drinks list a wide range of ingredients on their labels (like taurine), those with sensitivities may want to limit their intake or avoid them altogether.
Besides, the additives in energy drinks can upset your body’s pH balance and cause acne and other skin problems.

12. Highly associated with substance abuse and poor academic performance in teens and young adults

It is not uncommon for young adults and teenagers who drink energy drinks to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Because these drinks are used to get a boost throughout a long day of studying or working, they are often used in tandem with other substances—and may even be viewed as an excuse or catalyst for substance abuse.

Research has shown that drinking high levels of caffeine can actually lead young people to consume more alcohol than those who don’t drink energy drinks at all.

4. Can be addictive

Many of these drinks contain high levels of caffeine, which can cause addiction. Teens and young adults are especially at risk. Caffeine triggers activity in our brain’s reward pathways—the same ones that respond to other addictive substances, such as drugs and alcohol.

This can lead to cravings for more of these drinks. At first, you may only drink a certain energy drink occasionally. But over time, your body will begin to crave them. And when you don’t have one available, withdrawal symptoms can kick in. These include headaches, irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. In some cases, people develop an actual physical dependence on these beverages.

When they try to stop drinking them, they experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those associated with drug use or alcoholism. In fact, there is evidence that some energy drink users do become addicted. A study published in 2011 found that nearly half of college students who regularly consume energy drinks met the criteria for substance abuse disorders (specifically related to caffeine).

The study also found that about 5 percent had symptoms consistent with substance dependence. Withdrawal from these products can be difficult, but it is possible. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be developing a dependency on energy drinks. He or she can help you come up with strategies for safely weaning yourself off of them.

15. Increased Chances of Miscarriage

A recent study of more than 3,000 pregnant women found that those who drank energy drinks, especially those containing caffeine, were 30 percent more likely to miscarry than women who drank no caffeine-containing energy drinks.

Researchers believe that excess caffeine consumption can inhibit fetal growth by reducing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the baby. Consuming too much caffeine also puts you at risk for preterm labor, which may cause miscarriage or premature birth.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women should avoid caffeine and that includes staying away from energy drinks altogether. After all, if you’re planning on becoming a parent, it’s time to start thinking about what you eat and drink. 

What are the best alternatives to drink instead of sugar-sweetened soft drinks?

Final Thoughts

Energy drinks may seem like the perfect solution to an energy-depleted day, but it’s actually full of dangers that you need to know about before trying them out. If you’re thinking about starting an energy drink habit, you should be aware of their potential dangers, including weight gain, type 2 diabetes, weak bones, tooth decay, liver disease, and heart disease.

Energy drinks are full of sugar, coffee, acid, and additives that have been shown to be harmful to your health.

To avoid these complications, there are various homemade alternatives to quench your thirst for an energy drink while maintaining good health, such as coconut water, fresh juice water, and homemade lemonade, among others.

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