Energy Drinks Boost More Than Energy: Is There A Failure to Warn?

Downing an energy drink (ie. Red Bull, Full Throttle, Amp and Rush) may boost blood pressure and heart rate as well as energy, posing a particularly significant risk to patients with heart disease, high blood pressure, or in those who consume energy drinks often. This finding was based upon a small study of healthy adults who drank two cans a day of a popular energy drink presented by researchers at the American Heart Associations Scientific Sessions 2007 earlier this month. The increases did not reach dangerous levels in the healthy volunteers.

Most energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and taurine, an amino acid also found in protein-containing foods such as meats and fish. Both have had effects on heart function and blood pressure in some studies. In contrast, sports drinks in general contain various mixtures of water, sugars and salts alone, without chemicals aimed at increasing energy or alertness.

Additional warnings about energy drinks came at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Washington, where it was reported that people who drink energy drinks mixed with alcohol during a night out are twice as likely to be injured or otherwise come to harm than those who have alcoholic drinks on their own.

Concerns about mixing energy drinks and alcohol have persisted for many years. The combination of Red Bull and alcohol not only causes people to get drunk faster, but the stimulating effects of the Red Bull masks the intoxicating effects of alcohol. Thus people may drink more not realizing how much they are already being affected by alcohol.

Further, both alcohol and energy drinks are diuretics and cause dehydration; combining both only increases the dehydration and the toxicity of the alcohol. Those who drink energy-drink cocktails are also more than twice as likely to take advantage of someone else sexually, and almost twice as likely to accept a lift from a drink-driver or to be taken advantage of themselves. A young woman died of alcohol poisoning in a nightclub in Dublin this year after consuming numerous cocktails of Red Bull and vodka.

Red Bull is banned in France, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Uruguay. Health departments in Ireland, Turkey, Sweden and the United States have all expressed concern. The Swedish National Food Administration has warned people to avoid drinking Red Bull with alcohol or after heavy exercise or playing sports since blood pressure and heart rate naturally go up during physical activity.

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