They have earned the reputation of being infallible when it comes to maintaining attention and alertness but … What is true in these statements? Do they really contain substances that endanger health?


This week a publication in the British Medical Journal in which, for a change, which is already playing, the protagonist is not the ubiquitous coronavirus, but energy drinks.

The article explains the case of a 21-year-old man who has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy induced by continued intake of energy drinks. Specifically, the patient consumes four 500 ml cans daily. The news reopens the controversy about this type of drink and the “difficult relationship” that is established between them and some people, especially young people.

How many coffees is one of these drinks equivalent to?

An espresso coffee contains approximately 80-90 mg of caffeine and a 500 ml can of energy drink, about 150 mg. Therefore, this 500 ml can roughly equivalent to coffee and a 250 ml can, to a coffee.

How many coffees can I have per day without putting my health at risk?

The maximum intake of recommended caffeine by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are 400 mg daily, that is, about 4-5 coffees. Therefore, the intake of the patient with cardiomyopathy (four cans daily with 150 mg each) amounts to about 600 mg in total, which exceeds the maximum recommended amount of caffeine by 50%.

What can happen to us if we abuse energy drinks?

In general we face two problems: too much caffeine and too much sugar. Refering to cafeAs we mentioned, until reaching an intake of 400 mg daily or 200 mg of caffeine in a single intake, we will not talk about risk. From this dose, problems related to the central nervous system such as interrupted sleep, anxiety, arrhythmias and changes in behavior.

It is essential to monitor the intake in children since, according to surveys, many of them consume these drinks and we know that above 5 mg / kg can be produced anxiety disorders, irritability and nervousness. Consuming these types of beverages during pregnancy can also be associated with fetal growth disorders.

With respect to azcar, this is usually present in a percentage between 10 and 15%. This means that a 250 ml can can have about 25 g of sugar while a 500 ml can (a common format as this patient consumes) could contain up to 75 g of sugar. Taking into account that the maximum daily amount of sugar recommended by the WHO is 25 grams, a 500 ml can could triple! the recommended dose.

Do these drinks really “work”?

Yes, but not because of the marketing “magic ingredients” that are supposed to be the key. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has authorized a health claim that states that the intake of doses of cafe 40-75 mg increases attention span and alertness. As we have mentioned, a 250 ml can of energy drink contains about 80 mg of caffeine, therefore, it is true that it could increase the capacity of attention and alertness. But beware! It is also true that a single coffee contains around 90 mg, so we are not discovering the gunpowder or receiving additional benefits. Come on, for that trip you don’t need so many saddlebags.

What about taurine? And with ginseng?

The myth claims that the taurine in these drinks comes from the bull’s testicles. And of course, one reads in the composition “bullfighting” next to a bull painted on the can and it comes up. What is for truth? Taurine was first extracted in 1827 from the bile of the bull. But from there to that today we are drinking the select extract of the testicles of bulls there is a whole world of fantasy.

Currently, the taurine in energy drinks is produced synthetically in the laboratory. The bad news is that neither taurine nor ginseng have been shown to increase physical or intellectual performance. In this case, after being evaluated, unlike what happens with caffeine, EFSA has not authorized any health claim for them. Yes, you read that right. The only substance that has been shown to be effective in maintaining attention and alertness among all these substances in energy drinks is the old friend caffeine.

What are the risks of mixing energy drinks with alcohol?

By increasing alertness, the individual may not be aware that he is really drunk. Ultimately, one breaks down because the effects of alcohol are camouflaged. A “false resistance” to alcohol is generated that can lead the individual to drink more or even make bad decisions such as taking the car and hitting the road. For this reason, in 2010 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned drinks that mixed alcohol and energy drinks. Although, of course, you can always mix them on your own.

Conclusion: If you want to keep your attention and alertness, the coffee within the recommended dose (maximum 4-5 cups daily) It is the simplest and healthiest option. Energy drinks can serve as a point resource, but there are no scientific (and certainly no economic) reasons to consume them.


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