What exactly are energy drinks? Drinks like Red Bull, Monster, and Rock Star contain caffeine plus other ingredients like B vitamins, guarana (caffeine), and sometimes taurine – an amino acid. Companies promote this combination of ingredients as energy producing – but it’s likely just the caffeine that gives you a boost. Ounce per ounce, these drinks are not that much higher in caffeine than a cup of coffee. The problem with them is that they’re marketed to younger people who may be drinking a lot of them in higher amounts. Red Bull cans range in size from 8.4 ounces to 20 ounces – and some people drink several cans a day.
But are these drinks safe? Emergency room visits involving energy drinks are on the rise: 34 deaths over recent years were tied to these drinks. Researchers just published a new study that looked at the effects of these drinks on blood pressure and heart electrical activity.
Let’s take a look:
- The study was published in last week’s Journal of the American Heart Association.
- Researchers recruited 34 healthy people between the ages of 18 and 40 years old.
- They then had them drink either two 16-ounce cans of a caffeinated energy drink or a placebo drink on three consecutive days.
- The researchers measure blood pressure, heart rate, and did an electrocardiogram to examine the heart’s electrical activity.
- They did multiple measures starting at 30 minutes after the participants drank the energy drinks.
- Children under 12
- Pregnant women
- Anyone taking certain medicines (check with your doctor)
- Never mix them with alcohol
- No more than 100 mg of caffeine a day for teenagers (12-18)
- No more than 400 mg of caffeine a day for adults
- 1 12-ounce can of Red Bull = 113 mg of caffeine
- 1 cup of coffee = 100 mg of caffeine
- 1 cup of tea = 30 mg of caffeine
- 1 can of cola = 35 mg of caffeine
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham