Just One Energy Drink is Bad News for Blood Vessels


BY STEVE BORN

Everyone wants more energy, especially athletes, but at what cost to your health? Well, if you’re thinking of reaching for one of those you can find them anywhere energy drinks—you know which ones we’re talking about—a new study should stop you in your tracks and hopefully change your mind before you even think of consuming it.

New research from the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston, Texas, shows that the consumption of just one energy drink—that’s right, just one—is associated with significant damage to endothelial functioning. That is very bad news indeed. Dr. Bruce Alberts explains:

Almost all tissues depend on a blood supply, and the blood supply depends on endothelial cells, which form the linings of the blood vessels. Endothelial cells have a remarkable capacity to adjust their number and arrangement to suit local requirements. They create an adaptable life-support system, extending by cell migration into almost every region of the body. If it were not for endothelial cells extending and remodeling the network of blood vessels, tissue growth and repair would be impossible.

In a study headed up by Dr. John Higgins, participants included 44 healthy, nonsmoking medical students (average age 24.7 years). They first had their blood pressure and pulse checked and recorded, and each had an ECG (electrocardiogram) test performed to monitor and record all electrical activity of the heart at rest.

All of the participants then underwent a specific test to measure baseline endothelial function, after which they were instructed to drink a 24-ounce Monster Energy Drink. The measurements and tests were repeated 90 minutes later. The eye-opening results showed:

  • Significantly reduced blood flow. The researchers used the same “gold standard” peak flow-mediated dilatation response test as they did at the beginning of the study, and it showed a reduction of nearly 55% in artery width compared to baseline measurements.
  • An average increase of 12 beats per minute in pulse rates.
  • An increase of 12-14 mmHg in blood pressure readings.

Regarding the dramatic changes in the subjects’ readings as compared to baseline, Dr. Higgins states that the research “shows that energy drinks are having a direct effect on the endothelium. Our study provides further evidence of potential harms with energy drinks. We found an approximately 50% reduction in the arteries' ability to dilate. Our subjects weren't doing any physical activity, but many people consume energy drinks before they exercise and during exercise, and it is critical that arteries dilate properly to deliver the increased demands of oxygen to the brain, heart, and muscles.”

Reviewing the contents of the energy drink used in this study, it’s pretty easy to see why these results were so dramatically negative in regard to endothelial function. Each 24-ounce serving contains:

  • 77 grams of sugar – 100% of the carbohydrate content comes in the form of refined sugar (sucrose, glucose).
  • 510 grams of sodium – One can supplies over 20% of the Daily Value of sodium.
  • 244 milligrams of caffeine – This is about the same amount of caffeine that you’ll find in 2.5 eight-ounce brewed coffees. While many of us drink two or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily, 244 milligrams of caffeine is a massive amount to drink from one beverage in a short period of time. In addition to the caffeine content (supplied from caffeine and guarana), the product also contains Panax ginseng, which has a number of side effects attached to it, including increased pulse and heart rate.

Each of these three, alone or collectively, are responsible for the detrimental effects that the study participants experienced. The obvious message is to avoid these types of products like the plague. The ingredient list of the typical energy drink contains substantially more problematic nutrients than truly beneficial ones, and the amounts of these not-so-good nutrients are ridiculously high. Energy drinks are flat-out not good for you and could easily cause, in the words of Dr. Higgins, “serious cardiovascular and neurological events, including cardiac arrest.”

Recipe for a Healthy & Beneficial “Pick-Me-Up” Energy Drink

First, keep in mind that the typical energy drink is entirely different than a sports drink. HEED, for example, is best defined as an energy fuel for use during exercise. Next, to ideally prep your mind and body prior to a workout or race, use Fully Charged. Its formula contains beneficial nutrients that work with your body, with many helping to promote healthy endothelial functioning. Unlike the massive numbers of excess sugar/sodium/caffeine-laden energy drinks, Fully Charged contains NO sugar and NO sodium, and only has 15 mg of caffeine per serving from the natural green tea extract included in the formula.

For a healthy pick-me-up energy drink that you can enjoy any time—supplying you with the energy you want but without that unpleasant wired/heart-racing/pulse-pounding sensation—add 1 Cola Endurolytes Fizz to a bottle of water containing 1 serving of Fully Charged:

  • You’ll be upping the caffeine component by slightly over double—a total of 35 mg of caffeine—but you’ll keep it well below the excess amounts found in an energy drink.
  • The sodium component stays moderate, at 200 mg, and it’s balanced with all the other electrolytic minerals for full electrolyte support.
  • There still won’t be any sugar whatsoever in the Fizz/Fully Charged combination and you’ll also avoid all artificial sweeteners that are prevalent in nearly all energy drinks.