You probably have never thought that energy drinks were the greatest health food on the planet. Most of us inherently know that any food or drink that’s neon-coloured is probably not on your naturopathic doctor’s top ten list. You may have heard that drinking way too many energy drinks can cause heart attacks or sudden cardiac death. But what you may not know is how bad even a single energy drink can be for you.
I like to think of myself as a pretty reasonable naturopathic doctor – I encourage the 80/20 rule with patients (80% of the time, you’re eating what I want you to eat; 20% of the time is your cheat time) because I believe that there’s more to food than just its nutrient makeup. There’s something inherently good that we get out of indulging in something that tastes amazing, something to be said for the comfort of comfort food. But I do draw the line with certain habits, and energy drinks are one of them.
A recent study published in JAMA gave a little insight into what exactly happens in your body when you consume an energy drink.
They conducted an RCT (randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design) on 25 healthy adults (age 18+). The participants were nonsmokers, with no medical diagnoses and not taking any pharmaceutical medications. Each participant consumed one can (480ml or 16oz) of Rockstar energy drink, or a placebo drink. The crossover design means that each participant did the Rockstar trial, and the placebo trial, with a washout period of 2 weeks between (so they were comparing the exact same group to itself). The energy drink contained 240mg caffeine, 2000mg taurine, herbal extracts and additives for taste and colour. They measured serum caffeine, glucose, and norepinephrine – the fight or flight hormone – along with blood pressure and heart rate at baseline and again 30 mins after drink ingestion.
What they found might blow your mind a little.
-blood pressure increased by 6.4%, after drinking the energy drink
-norepinephrine levels increased by almost 75% after energy drink consumption
A 75% increase in stress hormone, after one 480ml energy drink?
That’s a really significant short-term response. What’s perhaps even more alarming, however, is that many people consume these beverages regularly. According to the study authors, long-term changes in norepinephrine and blood pressure like this “may predispose [people] to increased cardiovascular risk.”
What I typically say to patients relying on these and other highly caffeinated beverages is that caffeine itself isn’t necessarily harmful. But when you use caffeine because you ‘need’ it to function, it’s a sign of an underlying imbalance that should be addressed.
If you rely on energy drinks and coffee to keep you functioning during the day, you would benefit from a functional medicine assessment at Acubalance. We’ll assess your hormones, adrenal function, and lifestyle factors that can be adjusted so you feel just as (if not more) alert without the caffeine crutch.
In health and with energy,