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By Martha Grogan, MD - Mayo Clinic Medical Edge
DEAR MAYO CLINIC:
My grandson has several energy drinks a day. Is this bad for his health?
It certainly could be.
Energy drinks come in a variety of formulations but most contain lots of caffeine and sugar -- and possibly herbal stimulants and a supplementary amino acid known as taurine.
However, it can be difficult to determine what's in them or how much.
Having an occasional energy drink isn't necessarily bad, especially those that contain about the same amount of caffeine as a cup or two of coffee and a similar amount of sugar as a can of soda. But many energy drinks contain much higher amounts of caffeine and other substances.
High amounts of caffeine and sugar -- and whatever herbal stimulants may be added -- can have a variety of adverse effects.
They may cause a markedly faster heartbeat, irritability, nervousness, impaired sleep and nausea. In addition, the acids and sugars in these drinks promote tooth decay, and the sugar contains a lot of extra calories and little other nutritional value.
By itself, massive amounts of caffeine can increase your blood pressure and sometimes impair blood flow to your heart. It may trigger abnormal heart rhythms, which can be life-threatening in some people. Increased risk of a potential heart problem rises when energy drinks are consumed along with alcohol, when you're dehydrated, or when consumed quickly before a sporting event. Serious medical problems, including fainting or even a heart attack can occur due to consumption of energy drinks in these situations.
It's important to educate your grandson about the potential hazards of energy drinks. Perhaps you can encourage him to read the labels to determine the contents and amounts of caffeine and other ingredients. It may be helpful to remind your grandson that the best route to a healthy, energetic life is to get adequate sleep, exercise regularly and to eat a healthy diet.
Medical Edge from Mayo Clinic is an educational resource and doesn't replace regular medical care.
Health Risks Associated With Energy Drinks
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