Twenty years ago, I was guzzling Mountain Dew at a rate of ten cans (sometimes more) a day. I was addicted to that caffeine rush and constantly wanting to be alert. This continued until 1998 when I suffered a transient ischemic attack. My heart essentially went into overdrive and started losing beats. After the cardiologist found out how much caffeine I was ingesting he told me “Knock out the caffeine or this will become permanent.”
I took his advice to heart (pun) and weened myself off of caffeinated beverages. I had a couple more TIAs and then eventually they ceased I haven’t had one since. I haven’t drank anything with caffeine since then. Sure I know even decaf tea has some traces, but it’s not enough to cause me any problems.
I have been, since my experience, very much against energy drinks, which are the modern day equivalent of the Mountain Dew I used to drink, but with far greater levels of caffeine and stimulants. Recent investigations have shown that these energy drinks put a horrendous strain on the heart and body. Sure they make you awake, alert and able to get through the day. But at what cost? I would never want anyone to go through what I went through, even once. It wasn’t fun. More and more research is being done on these energy drinks and the findings just keep coming up with worse and worse scenarios.
The manufacturers of these drinks assure us that these drinks are safe. Isn’t that kind of like the tobacco industry telling people cigarettes are safe? Or the cocaine dealer telling you, it’s safe to snort! Because when you consider the effects on the body and the resulting addiction, caffeine is as much a drug as cocaine, marijuana and other nasty things that can destroy your body. So I say ignore what the manufacturers are saying and look at the statistics that have just started coming into the light…
Emergency Room Visits caused by Energy Drink consumption (people aged 18-39):
10,068 in 2007
20,783 in 2011
(58% caused by energy drinks alone, 42% caused by energy drinks combined with alcohol)
13 people have died over a four year period between 2008 and 2012 possibly linked to energy drink consumption. A low number, but one that is steadily going to increase.
Not only is the caffeine a problem, but also the additives that are in energy drinks: taurine, guarana, creatine and herbal supplements. Those additives can contain caffeine or caffeine like properties and also some can actually intensify the effect of caffeine. Most of these additives are unregulated.
The biggest problem is that people consume these energy drinks and then within a short period of time afterward, go exercise. When exercising you are pushing your heart to its limits, add the witches brew of caffeine and additives to the equation and the solution is not a pretty one. The heart goes out of bounds and the result is a heart attack. People also are drinking these things on an empty stomach, so the absorption rate is multiplied several times and the body is overwhelmed with a rush of chemicals. This can completely stress the heart and even your brain.
Normally you should only consume 200mg of caffeine a day. These energy drinks multiply that number a ton! That’s a huge amount of caffeine for the body to process and deal with.
In closing, I feel that the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration need to put legislation in place to ban the use of energy drinks or to regulate energy drinks in such a ways as to prevent people from downing them like candy.
When you consider how fragile the human body really is and how precious life is, is it really worth it to risk your health (long term and short term) just so you feel energized for a few hours? I don’t think it is. I have survived for over twenty years without caffeine, I am not dozing off in the middle of the day, I get a good night’s sleep. And that is a topic for another time.