Doctor warns of dangers of energy drinks

Energy drinks can increase blood pressure, worsen your anxiety, create digestive problems, cause dehydration and negatively impact your sleep patterns.

Heather Gustafson, WTOP, Dec 10, 2023

Days are getting shorter and the to-do lists are getting longer. If you are looking to put a pep in your holiday step with energy drinks, one doctor recommends finding other ways to get going and fight the winter doldrums.

"It's dark earlier," said bariatric surgeon Dr. Kaitlin Mirkin. "So, our bodies are receiving external cues that, you know, it might be time to go hibernate and go to bed."

So, are energy drinks a safe option to fight the winter malaise?

Mirkin said reaching for energy drinks in excess could be dangerous. In addition to affecting your blood pressure and heart rhythm, these sugary drinks - loaded with caffeine and other stimulants - can also worsen your anxiety, create digestive problems, cause dehydration and negatively impact your sleep patterns.

This October, a 46-year-old Florida man suffered cardiac arrest and died after drinking three Panera Charged Lemonades, a highly-caffeinated drink.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting caffeine to around 400-600 mg a day for adults, and around 100 mg a day for teenagers. The amount of caffeine for one can of Monster brand energy drink is listed as 86 mg.

Mirkin also said the added sugar in most energy drinks could increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.

With colorful packaging and sugary-candy flavors, energy drinks almost seem made for teens and kids. Mirkin said that they may not be the best option for a developing body.

"There's been a lot of concern about how energy drinks impact children and their developing cardiovascular neurovascular symptoms," Mirkin said.

Another holiday-specific warning is that energy drinks can cloak the effects of other excesses.

"Another thing, especially around holiday parties, is combining energy drinks with alcohol. It can be dangerous because it kind of masks the effect of intoxication to fool people into feeling less intoxicated," Mirkin said.

But what of moderation? Mirkin said it's "probably fine."

"I think a normal healthy person having one of these drinks once in a while is ... unlikely to cause damage to your health," she said.

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