Energy Drinks – Dangerous for Some

Energy drinks are common place on sports fields, gyms and in locker rooms.  Replenishing fluids and energy sounds like a good idea.  When studying, practice or rehearsal results in a late night, a quick energy drink appears to be a quick, safe solution.   On a hot day, you can even find 5 year old children grabbing their sports drinks during breaks in their sports games and practices.

It is estimated that 31% of adolescents from ages 12 to 19 partake of energy drinks on a regular basis, and that an even higher number use alternatives such as gum or inhalers.  It’s estimated that the sales of energy drinks in the U.S. will reach well over $27 trillion by the year 2017.  With no regulation, they are available cheaply, to anyone regardless of age.

You may have seen news stories highlighting accounts of families impacted by the negative effects of caffeine, but scientists are also taking a closer look.

Researchers in Spain, led by Dr. Fabian Sanchis-Gomar discovered, these seemingly innocent beverages could actually have deadly consequences.  The culprit is the high concentrations of sugar and caffeine.  If a young person has an underlying heart issue, consumption of energy drinks can cause dangerous arrhythmias and aggravate those conditions.

Beyond what is labeled as caffeine, researchers found additional sources of caffeine that may not be recognized by the young consumer, or even an older one.   For example, guarana and ginseng are often touted as natural sources of energy.  However, guarana has a caffeine concentrations nearly twice that of coffee!  While not caffeine specifically, ginseng is a stimulant and has effects on numerous tissues in the body.

While generally regarded as safe, when consumed in larger quantities, adverse effects do sometimes occur.  They are “most common among children, adolescents and young adults with anxiety, seizures, agitation, migraines, sleeplessness, dehydration, gastrointestinal problems, arrhythmias and other cardiac events.”  Especially, in adolescents, caffeine accelerates aggression, reduces sleeping hours, and increases the daytime sleepiness and administration of painkillers for headache.  It has a harmful effect on growth because it causes the loss of calcium and potassium.

In 2007, there were over 5,400 caffeine overdoses reported in the US.  Of those, nearly half, 46%, were under the age of 19.  Overdoses of caffeine can cause manic episodes, panic attacks, hallucinations, delusions, disorientation, and the lowering of one’s inhibitions.

In the study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, Dr. Sanchis-Gomar and his associates note that it is important for physicians to be aware of the dangers.   Considering the absence of regulation of caffeine content, “knowledge and awareness” are vital.

Whether you are a parent, a coach, or even a spectator, it is important to monitor adolescents and provide access to safe, healthy options before, during and after activities.

The researchers offer these guidelines to help keep youth safe:

  • One can (250 mL) of an energy drink per day is safe for most healthy adolescents.
  • Energy drink consumption before or during sports practice should be avoided.
  • Adolescents with clinically relevant underlying medical conditions should consult cardiologists before drinking energy drinks.
  • Excessive energy drink consumption together with alcohol or other drugs, or both, may lead to adverse effects, including death.

Reducing your child’s caffeine intake may be harder than you think.  Consuming as little as 200mg of caffeine every day can lead to addiction and altered chemistry in the brain.  In fact, it’s believed that some 3 out of 4 regular caffeine users are actually addicted to the substance.

While caffeine in large amounts can be very harmful to one’s health and withdrawal from caffeine can be difficult, many who reduce their consumption find that they can be successful in stopping altogether. In many cases a slow withdrawal can be the best choice.

Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about healthy ways to increase energy and tips for optimal nutrition for you and your family!



Energy drinks the cause of many sudden cardiac deaths in young people, researchers find. Christopher Maynard. Consumer Affairs. 4/3/2015.

“Energy Drink Overconsumption in Adolescents: Implications for Arrhythmias and Other Cardiovascular Events”. Fabian Sanchis-Gomar PhD, MDx, Helios Pareja-Galeanox, PhD, Gianfranco Cervellinx, MD, Giuseppe Lippix, MD, Conrad P. Earnest, PhD. Canadian Journal of Cardiology  May 2015 Volume 31, Issue 5.

25 Shocking Caffeine Addiction Statistics. Health Research Funding.