Energy drinks aren’t healthy for anybody, but we’re quickly learning they’re even worse than initially thought. Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages that contain high levels of caffeine, sugar, and other substances with stimulant properties. In the UK, the energy drink market is worth over £2 billion, with the volume of drinks consumed going up by nearly 70% in the years between 2010 and 2015 alone.
Despite the dangers these drinks present, teens have been consuming them with alarming regularity. On average, UK teens are reported to be drinking 3.1 liters of the beverage per month.
Energy drinks have increasingly been linked to heart, nerve, and stomach problems— but now, scientists from McGovern Medical School are the first to explain why.
The researchers believe energy drinks cause health problems by narrowing blood vessels and restricting blood flow to vital organs. They believe certain ingredients in the drinks are to blame.
For example, most energy drinks contain high levels of sugar which is already known to contract blood vessels. They also contain high levels of caffeine, which acts similarly to sugar but also causes the release of adrenaline which increases blood pressure.
Researchers believe these ingredients restrict blood vessels by acting on the endothelium, a layer of cells on vessel’s surface.
To test their theory, researchers examined 44 students from McGovern Medical School. All participants were non-smokers in their 20s who had been classified as healthy. Researchers tested the participants’ endothelial function before and 90 minutes after each of them drank a 24-oz energy drink.
During the second test, scientists were stunned to see the diameter of the participants’ blood vessels had been cut by nearly half.
As mentioned, an increasing number of studies have been linking energy drinks to health problems. Last year, researchers in California discovered that drinking one 32-ounce energy drink could cause arrhythmia, a condition where the heart beats in an irregular rhythm. This past February, researchers from Canada discovered that half of Canadian teens who drank energy drinks reported health problems like a rapid heartbeat, nausea, and even seizures.
Last May, a South Carolina teen died after ingesting high levels of caffeine in the form of coffee and energy drinks. In an interview, Dr. Michael Reider, head of pediatrics at Western University, told CTV News: “I think that this is not something we have actually thought a lot about.”
“I think that a lot of pediatricians are a bit unaware of how much caffeine there is in the average drink and how popular they are with adolescents.”
To the parents out there: Please teach your children the dangers of consuming energy drinks.
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