Can energy drinks cause headaches?
Energy drinks: health risk for heavy drinkers
Almost 70 percent of all teenagers drink energy drinks, and one in four of them more than is healthy. But students and adults also use the caffeinated soft drinks to improve their performance and ability to concentrate; at parties and while driving, they are supposed to drive away tiredness.
What's in energy drinks
Most energy drinks taste artificially sweet and are usually composed of the following ingredients:
Water, sugar (for example dextrose, glucose, sucrose, fructose), carbonic acid, caffeine, taurine, glucuronolactone, colorings and flavors. The caffeine provides the stimulating effect, but this only applies to caffeine in moderation. Depending on the manufacturer, the drinks differ in their plant extracts such as mate or guarana, various flavorings and colorings.
High sugar content
Due to their high sugar content, energy drinks contain a relatively high number of calories, about as much as cola drinks or lemonades. Two cans of this drink (500 milliliters) can contain up to 70 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 24 sugar cubes. Alternatively, there are sugar-free variants that are sweetened with sweeteners.
Mandatory maximum quantities for additives in energy drinks
The legal provisions for energy drinks are in Germany in the fruit juice and soft drinks ordinance. According to this, energy drinks are caffeinated soft drinks that may contain a maximum of 320 milligrams of caffeine per liter. Maximum levels also apply to other ingredients.
|ingredient||Maximum content (milligrams per liter)|
Labeling requirement for increased caffeine content
If the caffeine content is more than 150 milligrams per liter, since the end of 2014 beverages have to bear the notice: "High caffeine content. Not recommended for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women". The caffeine content in milligrams per 100 milliliters must be given in brackets.
These requirements also apply when the drink is dispensed in bulk. Here, the information must be listed on a sign on or next to the goods or in restaurants on the menu and drinks menu.
The regulations for the caffeine content do not apply to caffeinated soft drinks based on coffee or tea, if "coffee" or "tea" is in the name. This is the case with iced tea, for example.
Dangers from energy drinks
A 250 milliliter can contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, as much as a cup of coffee. That sounds harmless at first, but it's often not just one can. If several energy drinks are consumed in a row, undesirable effects can occur.
- a headache
- high blood pressure
- Racing heart
- Cognitive disorders
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Circulatory collapse
There is a health risk for children and adolescents if they consume more than 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight per day. In a healthy young person with a body weight of around 50 kilograms, this is 150 mg of caffeine. This amount is already exceeded with two energy doses with 80 mg caffeine per 250 ml each. In adults, single doses of caffeine of up to 200 milligrams (daily doses of up to 400 milligrams) are harmless to health. This corresponds to 2 to 4 cups of coffee.
It has not yet been clarified whether the undesirable effects of caffeine are increased by combining it with other ingredients such as taurine, guarana or L-arginine.
Further results on the maximum levels for caffeine can be found at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Dangerous combination with alcohol
Adolescents and young adults drink energy drinks in large quantities of more than one liter on certain occasions. This group can pose a risk to the cardiovascular system.
The consumption of energy drinks in connection with alcohol and / or physical activity has not been conclusively clarified.
The caffeine "masks" the effects of the alcohol. It has been observed in studies that the feeling of being drunk is significantly reduced, tiredness and exhaustion are not properly perceived. This leads to a higher willingness to take risks. In the United States, for example, students who drank energy drinks mixed with alcohol were twice as likely to cause car accidents.
There have been several deaths that could possibly be related to energy drink consumption in conjunction with alcohol and high intensity exercise such as dancing. However, a direct causal relationship between the consumption of the drink and the deaths has not yet been proven.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) reports in a statement on the evaluation of energy drinks from cases with cardiac arrhythmias and kidney failure to deaths.
Demand for a sales ban
Based on the EFSA assessment and a randomized, double-blind, controlled cross-over study by the David Grand Medical Center, the consumer advice centers are calling for a ban on the sale of all soft drinks with a high caffeine content (over 150 milligrams per liter, including many energy drinks and some Cola drinks.
In addition, the consumer advice centers consider better labeling of the products to be urgently required: The reference to "increased caffeine content" is completely inadequate. The warning must be supplemented by the side effects in combination with alcohol and physical exertion. Even the warning "Not suitable for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women", which is now mandatory, is not enough. These instructions should be clearly visible on the front of the products!
Caffeine levels in comparison
- 1 cup (150 milliliters) of coffee: 50-100 milligrams depending on the strength
- 1 espresso: 50-60 milligrams
- 1 glass (200 milliliters) cola drink: 30 milligrams
- 1 can (250 milliliters) energy drink: 80 milligrams of caffeine
- 1 whole milk chocolate (100 grams): 3-35 milligrams
As a rule, coffee is not consumed in such large quantities as energy drinks.
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