Food & Nutrition

What Really Happens to Your Body When You Use Energy Drinks

Energy drinks can damage teeth

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Energy drink products contain citric acid, which is highly corrosive to teeth, warns registered dental hygienist Anastasia Turchetta. A study comparing sports drinks and energy drinks found that energy products have significantly higher acidity and greater capacity to dissolve enamel compared to sports drinks. In fact, enamel loss after exposure to energy drinks was more than two times higher than after exposure to sports drinks. “Imagine the collision of citric acid with sugars, and you have the perfect storm for tooth enamel demineralization and/or tooth decay,” says Turchetta. “Once your enamel is gone, it won’t grow back! What’s next? Tooth sensitivity and thinner enamel, which will look more yellow and attract more stains.” What’s even more concerning is that the precise amount of citric acid is not required on the label, so we don’t actually know how much we’re getting.

Energy drinks don’t actually give you energy

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They may be called energy drinks, but the truth is that their main ingredients (taurine, L-carnitine and glucuronolactone) don’t provide a genuine energy boost at all. “Taurine and L-carnitine are amino acids involved in energy metabolism and are naturally found in muscle and organ tissue,” Cohn explains. “They are used in energy products but do little to boost energy. Glucuronolactone is often said to increase energy because of its supposed impact on energy metabolism, but it has no real effect on energy levels either.” The perceived energy boost likely comes from sugar (glucose is a major energy source) but it doesn’t last long before the crash comes. And the adverse effects of high sugar content don’t stop there. An energy drink typically contains about 13 teaspoons of sugar per serving—more than double the World Health Organization’s recommended daily limit of 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. “Over time, this amount of simple sugar exposure contributes to obesity and insulin resistance,” says Warren. “Studies also show that energy products cause complications for those with heart conditions and high blood pressure. In the end, what we know and do not know about the effects of energy products is enough to skip drinking them.” Here’s how to kick your sugar addiction.

Energy drinks can cause headaches and mood swings

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Guarana, another common energy drink ingredient, may be a plant, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It’s high in caffeine, even more so per serving than coffee. “Guarana stimulates the central nervous system,” explains Cohn. “This provides a feeling of energy boost and mental clarity, and can reduce appetite. However, it can also cause adverse energy drink side effects such as headaches, insomnia, nervousness, and mood swings; it can be dangerous when combined with prescription medication; and it can cause various side effects, from cardiac and digestive problems to impaired judgement and decision-making.” The real danger of guarana is that it’s not listed as an additional source of caffeine on ingredient lists. “Some young adults have reported being sent to the emergency room because of overdoses of caffeine in the form of guarana-based drinks,” warns Warren. Next, read about these high-energy foods you should add to your diet.

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