Something relatively new has become commonplace today.
It’s the fastest-growing part of this country’s beverage market.
They are especially popular among athletes, students, or anyone looking for that extra edge at the gym, on the playing field, or in the classroom. Sold in colorful cans and bottles, available in stores and fitness centers, they are heavily advertised and often endorsed by athletes. Sporting events and concerts are even sponsored by them. The product is marketed as providing desirable and healthful benefits.
And they should have safety warnings on them.
Energy drinks. Beverages like Red Bull, Monster, 5-Hour Energy, Go Girl and Rockstar. People take them to boost their performance and speed recovery times after exertion. Problem is – they can also cause sudden cardiac death if too much is consumed.
The problem? Caffeine.
Almost all of these drinks contain caffeine, which can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. In fact, they can raise your heart rate and blood pressure much more than the actual athletic activity. This can lead to arrhythmias and sudden death. If you already have a propensity for heart disease (which you might not even know about yet), these drinks would further accelerate those conditions. Athletes often exert to the point that their heart rates near maximum. If they’ve consumed something that raises those rates further – there is risk. It may be relatively rare, but definitely possible.
Beyond even these acute dangers, energy drinks will dehydrate you – which is not what you want from a drink when you’re already dehydrating from exercise.
Most of these drinks are also very high in sugar, though some offer sugar-free and diet versions. Many also contain taurine, ginseng and guarana. Taurine increases heart rate and blood pressure, similar to caffeine. Guarana contains approximately twice as much caffeine as coffee beans.
This is all of such concern that in 2008, the National Federation of State High School Associations strongly recommended that energy drinks shouldn’t be used for hydration purposes, and not be consumed by athletes that are dehydrated. They suggest only water and suitable sports drinks be used for rehydration. Further, they contend that energy drinks shouldn’t be used by athletes who are taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines without approval by a physician.
While drinking one of these drinks now and then is fine, many people consume them far too often. Most athletes would not drink large amounts of coffee before an event. Yet they aren’t aware of the caffeine levels in these “energy drinks.”
My overall suggestion? To be on the safe side, simply to avoid these energy drinks, especially as they are not regulated.
[About the author: Dr. Ramin Manshadi is a Board-Certified physician with the American Board of Interventional Cardiology, American Board of Cardiology, American Board of Internal Medicine and is Board-Eligible with the American Board of Nuclear Cardiology. He is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Cardiology at UC Davis Medical Center. Dr. Manshadi was named a “2011 Top Cardiologist” by U.S. News & World Report. He is the author of The Wisdom of Heart Health: Attaining a Healthy and Robust Heart in Today’s Modern World. For more information, please visit, www.DrManshadi.com.]
[Image: Lisa Padilla]