Energy drinks are widely consumed around the world. In 2020, In the United States alone, sales of energy drinks topped USD 3.7 billion, with the global market forecast to reach $86 billion USD by 2026. Men between the ages of 18 and 34 years consume the highest amounts of energy drinks, and almost 33% of teens between 12 and 17 years drink them regularly. (1,2)
So what is an energy drink, and do they differ from sports drinks or sodas?
- Sports drinks – Typically these are flavored beverages that are specially formulated to help rehydrate a person during and after physical activity. They are often rich in carbohydrates and contain minerals, electrolytes, and other vitamins and nutrients.
- Sodas – Similar to energy drinks, however, sodas contain a lot less caffeine and usually much more sugar.
- Energy drinks typically contain more stimulants such as caffeine, with some sugars, protein, vitamins, sodium, and other minerals added. They claim to heighten focus and boost performance. Energy drinks may also contain other ingredients, or ‘supplements’ such as methylxanthines, B vitamins, guarana, yerba mate, bitter orange, ginger, ginkgo, St. John’s wort, ginseng, and taurine. (3)
A Brief History Of Energy Drinks
There have been several products that could possibly lay claim to being the original energy drink, some dating back to the early 1900s. (4)
According to an article in The New York Times Magazine, the first energy drink as we know it was produced in Japan in 1962, when a company called Taisho introduced Lipovitan D. By the 1980s, caffeine loaded drinks were gaining popularity in Japan and soon made their way to Europe where today’s leading brand was born.
In the U.S. two leading soda brands tried to market their products as a rival to coffee, while a Chicago chemist invented a caffeinated soft drink fortified with vitamins. (5)
Energy Drinks Linked To Depression, Anxiety, And Stress
As energy drinks took off and gained popularity, particularly in the 1990s, amidst claims from manufacturers that they improve mood, alertness, and productivity, there have also been fears about possible negative effects on health, particularly to young consumers.
While energy drinks may improve athletic performance and alertness in the short term, frequent energy drink consumption was significantly associated with a wide range of mental health problems, including sleep dissatisfaction, stress, depression, and anxiety.
One study over two years in young adults aged 20, showed an increase in depression, anxiety, and stress in males who changed from being non-energy drink users to energy drink users. (6)
Other studies have shown similar results, and several articles published between 1990 and 2015 showed some links to energy drinks and mental health problems. (7)
Causes And Safety Concerns
Consuming energy drinks has raised some important safety concerns and while many studies have not identified the exact cause linked to mental health problems, the mix of ingredients seems to be an obvious factor. It is thought that high levels of caffeine, sugar, along with other ingredients which may have stimulant properties, could be dangerous to health. (8)
- Although low amounts of caffeine can have some health benefits, in large quantities, caffeine may cause heart palpitations, increased heart rate, and higher blood pressure. Caffeine may also harm a child’s still-developing cardiovascular and nervous systems. One serving, depending on the brand, can contain between 35-300mg of caffeine, with safe limit recommendations being 100mg for children between 12-18 and 400mg for adults. (9)
Caffeine use is also associated with anxiety, interrupted sleep patterns, digestive issues, and dehydration.
- Guarana contains caffeine and is often included in energy drinks. The addition of guarana increases the drink’s total caffeine content which is often hidden when listing the amounts of caffeine.
- People who mix energy drinks with alcohol may not be able to tell how intoxicated they are due to the high levels of stimulants involved. This may lead to risk-taking such as drunk driving. One report stated that drinkers between the ages of 15-23 were more likely to binge drink if they mixed alcohol with energy drinks.
With alcohol being a depressant, this could lead to further, or increased bouts of anxiety, stress, and depression in users. (10)
The effects of energy drinks and alcohol have also been compared to cocaine use with users experiencing a ‘crash’ or ‘downer’ after effects wear off. (11)
- Excessive energy drink consumption may disrupt sleep patterns due to the number of other stimulants contained within. Interrupted sleep can also lead to stress and depression.
- A single 16-oz. serving of an energy drink may contain 54 to 62 grams of sugar. This exceeds the maximum amount of added sugars recommended for an entire day, currently 36 grams for men and 32 grams for women. Excess sugar intake can lead to weight increase and obesity. (12)
Making A Change To A Better, Healthier Lifestyle
While the occasional energy drink can be seen as a positive when suffering from reduced stamina or trying to get through a tough day at work, the addictive ingredients may steer you to an increase in consumption, leading to many of the issues above.
As much as possible, it is better to find your energy sources from natural substances or supplements.
To ease the negative effects that can occur from excessive energy drink consumption, a reduction in how much you drink is an obvious start. A healthy diet and lifestyle can wean you off the addictive properties contained within and give you more energy naturally. If you suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression linked to energy drinks, then taking Be Serene can help negate those effects. With its natural plant-based ingredients, Be Serene can relieve anxiety quickly and restore your body and mind to a state of calm and peacefulness while reducing your reactivity to stress.
Energy drinks certainly have their place but as studies have found, they may not be the “wonder drink” manufacturers claim them to be. It is important to consume them in moderation and to listen to what your body is telling you, always.