Energy drinks are intended to boost your energy, alertness and concentration. People of all ages consume them and they continue to grow in popularity. But some health professionals have warned that energy drinks may have harmful consequences, which has led many people to question their safety.
This article weighs the good and the bad of energy drinks, providing an extensive review of their health effects.
What Are Energy Drinks?
Energy drinks are beverages that contain ingredients marketed to increase energy and mental performance. Nearly all energy drinks contain the ingredient caffeine to stimulate brain function and increase alertness and concentration. However, the amount of caffeine differs from product to product.
All caffeine information in this table was obtained from the manufacturer’s website or from Caffeine Informer, if the manufacturer did not list caffeine content.
Energy drinks also typically contain several other ingredients. A few of the most common ingredients other than caffeine are listed below:
Usually the main source of calories in energy drinks, although some do not contain sugar and are low-carb friendly.
Play an important role in converting the food you eat into energy your body can use.
Amino acid derivatives
Examples are taurine and L-carnitine. Both are naturally produced by the body and have roles in several biological processes.
Guarana is likely included to add more caffeine, while ginseng may have positive effects on brain function. Energy drinks are designed to increase energy and mental performance. They contain a combination of caffeine, sugar, vitamins, amino acid derivatives and herbal extracts.
Energy Drinks Can Improve Brain Function
People consume energy drinks for a variety of reasons. One of the most popular is to increase mental alertness by improving brain function. But does research really show energy drinks can provide this benefit? Multiple studies confirm that energy drinks can indeed improve measures of brain function like memory, concentration and reaction time, while also reducing mental fatigue. In fact, one study, in particular, showed that drinking just one 8.4-ounce (500-ml) can of Red Bull increased both concentration and memory by about 24%. Many researchers believe this increase in brain function can solely be attributed to caffeine, while others have speculated that the combination of caffeine and sugar in energy drinks is necessary to see the most benefit. Multiple studies have shown energy drink can reduce mental fatigue and improve measures of brain function, such as memory, concentration and reaction time.
Energy Drinks May Help People Function When They’re Tired
Another reason people consume energy drinks is to help them function when they’re sleep-deprived or tired. Drivers on long, late-night road trips often reach for energy drinks to help them stay alert while they’re behind the wheel. Multiple studies using driving simulations have concluded that energy drinks can increase driving quality and reduce sleepiness, even in drivers who are sleep-deprived.
Similarly, many night-shift workers use energy drinks to help them fulfill job requirements during hours when most people are sound asleep. Although energy drinks may also help these workers stay alert and awake, at least one study has suggested that energy drink use could negatively affect sleep quality following their shift.