That Sugar Movement


Serious health risks associated with energy drinks


We wrote recently about the concern of energy drink consumption by kids. Since, a new mini-review looking into effects from energy drink consumption has been released. The conclusions aren’t good news for our Red Bull sipping friends.

The latest review, published in Frontiers in Public Health, looked at advertised benefits, nutritional content and public health effects of energy drinks.1

It found that the supposed benefits are outweighed by serious risks to health.

“We summarize the consequences of energy drink consumption, which include heart, kidney, and dental problems, as well as risk-seeking behavior and poor mental health,” said study author Dr. Josiemer Mattei of the research findings.

These risks are mostly due to the high sugar and caffeine levels in energy drinks.

Impact on health includes risk-seeking behaviour, such as substance misuse and aggression and mental health problems in the form of anxiety and stress, as mentioned above, and extends to increased blood pressure, obesity, kidney damage, fatigue, stomach aches and irritation.

“The energy drink industry has grown dramatically in the past 20 years, culminating in a nearly $10 billion per year industry in the United States. They are often marketed as a healthy beverage that people can adopt to improve their energy, stamina, athletic performance and concentration, but our review shows there are important health consequences,” says Dr. Mattei, Assistant Professor of Nutrition based at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

What the research also highlights is how little we know about long-term effects of consuming ingredients common to energy drinks, such as taurine, ginseng and guarana, and that we need further research in this area.

What we do know is excess sugar and caffeine consumption is not great.

The caffeine and sugar factor
While caffeine intake of up to 400 mg/day is fine for adults, there is little research on levels tolerated by adolescents and children, who are some of the biggest consumers of energy drinks.

The researchers state some drinks can contain up to 100mg caffeine per fluid ounce, eight times more than a regular cup of coffee at 12mg.

Sugar amounts are, on average, 54g per 500ml serve. That one drink is over twice the daily recommended limit for added sugar consumption of 6 teaspoons/25 g per day.2

A daily energy drink pick-me-up does not make for a happy body.

Boost energy, naturally
So, the short-term buzz from energy drinks does not outweigh longer-term health risks, despite health claims for being low-carb or able to ‘give you wings’.

Feel like you need an energy boost?

Choose water and hydrate first. Too often we eat and drink for fatigue when are simply running low in H2O. If that doesn’t cut it, and you can tolerate caffeine, choose to have a no added sugar, good quality coffee or green tea instead. And consider these tips for keeping your energy firing!

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)



  1. Laila, A, Kelsey, V, Chang, L, Scott, R, Martha, T, & Josiemer, M 2017, ‘Health Effects and Public Health Concerns of Energy Drink Consumption in the United States: A Mini-Review’, Frontiers in Public Health, vol 5.
  2. World Health Organization 2015, Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children, viewed 23 August 2017, <>
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