Energy drinks are popular among young people these days, and most drink them for a much-needed energy boost to get through the day, especially when they have a lot going on.
However, they are not as good for the body as they claim to be. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of energy drinks, the effects of energy drinks on the teenage body, and what you can do to avoid them.
What Are Energy Drinks?
Energy drinks are beverages designed to boost alertness and energy. They contain significant amounts of caffeine and sugar with most energy drinks containing up to 200 mg of caffeine – the same amount as two cups of brewed coffee. Some contain 41 grams of sugar, nearly twice the amount of sugar in a 12 oz soda drink. They may also contain ingredients that boost energy, like B vitamins or herbs like ginseng and guarana.
Despite warnings from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that children and teenagers shouldn’t consume them, they are their main consumers. Students often drink them when studying for exams, and some young athletes take them before a game. However, energy drinks may be more harmful than helpful for adolescents and those with certain health conditions. In 2007 alone, 1,145 teenagers aged 12-17 went to the emergency department for energy drink-related emergencies. Unfortunately, this number rose to 1499 in 2011.
Many think energy and sports drinks are the same, but they are entirely different. Unlike energy drinks, sports drinks are flavored drinks that contain carbohydrates, electrolytes, and other nutrients. They may benefit young athletes in endurance and high-intensity sports. However, their high calorie and citric acid content link them to obesity and tooth erosion.
What Are the Dangers of Energy Drinks?
Are there any positive effects of energy drinks on the body? While some studies have shown that energy drinks can temporarily improve alertness and physical performance and reverse fatigue in some people, most studies link them to negative health consequences.
Increased Health Risks In Adolescents
Teens are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of energy drinks, especially if they have any undiagnosed or underlying conditions. Many don’t realize they must monitor the amount of caffeine they consume. Energy drinks can contain up to 500 mg per can, the same amount as drinking 14 soda cans.
Consuming too much caffeine can cause:
- Dental problems
- Insomnia and disrupted natural sleep patterns
- Irregular heartbeats
- High blood pressures
- Renal problems
- Cardiac arrest
- Increased risk of risk-seeking behaviors
High Sugar Content
According to the CDC, some energy drinks contain as much as 27 teaspoons of sugar. Most energy drinks have more sugar than soda or sports drinks, which coat every surface in your mouth, including the deep grooves in your tooth enamel and between teeth. These areas are all prone to cavities.
Sugar-free energy drinks may not have sugar, but they are just as bad. Energy drinks are acidic even without sugar, which means they can still erode your tooth enamel.
Use With Alcoholic Drinks
It’s common among underage drinkers to combine energy drinks with alcohol, especially those who binge drink. Research suggests this type of cocktail can lead to a higher intake than just drinking alcohol. Energy drinks increase alertness, masking signs of drunkenness and leading people to believe they can drink more. Case reports also show this trend is linked to adverse neurological, psychological, and cardiovascular events.
The main ingredient that enhances physical performance in adults is caffeine. It increases strength and endurance, improves reaction time, and delays fatigue. However, these effects may vary in different people. Taking energy drinks for a long time will also counteract any positive effects of being athletic. Some of the long-term effects of energy drinks on the body include slower metabolism, weight gain, and increased cholesterol and blood sugars.
These effects have not been studied in children and adolescents, putting them at risk of caffeine abuse or toxicity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a limit of less than 100 mg daily caffeine intake for ages 12-18.
Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome (RCVS)
RCVS is one of many side effects of energy drinks on the brain. It’s a rare condition caused by a sudden tightening of the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain, characterized by a severe, sudden headache with or without strokes and bleeding in the brain. It may be reversible, but some don’t recover if it progresses into a stroke.
Effects of Energy Drinks on Oral Health
The dangers of energy drinks also affect your oral health in different ways.
Cavities are the biggest threat to your teeth when you drink energy drinks. Energy drinks are extremely acidic and loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners, more than soda and sports drinks have.
Teeth enamel may be the hardest material in your body, but it is not invincible in the face of an acidic environment. They will begin to wear out as you continuously drink acidic energy drinks, making your teeth vulnerable to cavities in more than one tooth. It also makes your teeth more sensitive.
Gum disease is another byproduct of the acidity caused by energy drinks. The highly acidic environment promotes bacteria growth and development. The more bacteria you have in your mouth, the more likely you are to develop cavities and gum disease.
Regularly drinking energy drinks may stain your teeth. The stains they leave may not be as intense as those left by coffee and other teeth-staining drinks, but they will eventually stain your teeth if you drink them long enough and often enough.
How To Minimize Damage from Energy Drinks
Continuing to ignore your health and the effects of energy drinks will eventually put your health in danger. But, always remember that your health is in your hands. You can take these steps to minimize the adverse effects of energy drinks:
Do not sip on energy drinks for too long.
Sipping on your energy drink for too long increases the time it’s in contact with your teeth. Gulp it down quickly so your teeth won’t be soaked in an acidic environment. It will help you avoid enamel wear and keep your gums and teeth strong. Also, make sure to rinse with water afterward.
Take good care of teeth and gums.
After drinking an energy drink, brush your teeth and floss. Your mouth will be healthier and more resistant to harmful bacteria if it’s well-maintained and in optimal health.
Drink energy drinks in moderation.
Avoiding energy drinks is impossible, especially if you’re a die-hard fan. But, it’s best to take caution when you drink them and try to cut down if you can. Your body will thank you for it.
Energy drinks may seem good at first, but they’re not. The dangers of energy drinks put children and young adults at risk for different health problems. It also affects oral health, causing cavities, gum disease, and teeth staining.
Good oral health, not sipping energy drinks, and drinking energy drinks in moderation will help you avoid the harmful effects of energy drinks. Don’t expect any energy drink recommendations as a healthier body and keeping yourself well-hydrated are better alternatives to energy drinks.
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