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Energy Drink Dangers

By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD

Energy Drink

Five extra hours of energy sounds fantastic in theory. Who wouldn’t want five more hours of productivity? But considering last week’s news on energy drinks, you may want to rethink that gas station purchase.

Thirteen deaths have linked to the 2-oz bottles of 5-Hour Energy , with an additional 33 hospitalizations. Before you freak out at the thought of a 4-calorie shot killing you, read more details here on webmd.

Five hour drinks are the biggest but not the only culprit. The real problem takes up entire aisles in the grocery store and gas stations with promises of making you smarter and even giving you wings. But what is actually in all these energy boosters?

Given all the junk that goes into energy drinks, caffeine may actually be the least of your worries. It’s not innocent, but consider that most energy drinks have ~200-300 mg caffeine (2-3 cups of coffee). Unless you’re throwing back drink after drink, there’s more to these energy deaths and illnesses than caffeine. Just for fun, check out the rest of a five hour label:

Energy Drink Nutrition Facts

I didn’t even make it down to the ingredients (failed my own label reading, I know) before having a WTH moment- 8,333% of anything is completely terrifying, even if it is a vitamin. You don’t need three years’ worth of vitamin b12 in one shot.

Ingredient-wise, common energy boosters like L tyrosine, L-taurine, and L-phenylalanine  are amino acids (those found in protein) that may help in energy . But we don’t need extra of those either — The average healthy intake of taurine is about 60 mg per day while an energy drink can contain over > 1,000 mg. The jury’s still out on the danger of these, but there’s certainly a limit to the benefits.

Then I spy chemicals: artificial flavors, sweeteners (sucralose), and preservatives (EDTA). EDTA is actually used to make lighter fluid… so, ew.

When you think of the confusion and energy overload you’re throwing your body into it’s no surprise  there are really scary side effects. I think it’s time we forget the obsession with MORE energy and make your goal to get better energy.  More on that next time, but hint: good quality food, hydration, exercise, and sleep. Boring, maybe, but there are scarier fates.

Photo: iStockphoto

The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Second Opinion are... Expand


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