Are energy drinks wreaking havoc on your digestive system?

178856680Monster, Red Bull and Rock Star are just some of the energy drinks on the market. These drinks are loaded with caffeine (any where from 75 to 200 milligrams — about the same as a cup of coffee), sugar/artificial sweeteners and other ingredients. Another way people get a quick hit of caffeine is from 5-Hour Energy drinks that concentrate up to 200 milligrams of caffeine into a two ounce drink.

So what impact do all those ingredients have on your digestive system? Caffeine is a stimulant that increases your motility, or the contraction of the muscles that propel contents in your gastrointestinal tract. Caffeine is also a diuretic that can cause dehydration especially for those who are prone to diarrhea. For some people, this can cause diarrhea. Caffeine can also make you jittery and anxious. Anxiety worsens symptoms of many gastrointestinal conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

There are about 30 grams of sugar in most eight-ounce servings of an energy drink. That’s the equivalent of more than seven teaspoons of sugar in one small eight-ounce can. For those with IBS and IBD, consuming excess amounts of refined sugar at one time may not be absorbed well in the intestines. The GI tract then draws water into the bowel to dilute and flush out the excess sugar, leading to diarrhea.

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Effects of caffeine on heart health

How much is safe?

A cup of joe may be good for you, but don’t fall for the bull. The Red Bull, that is.

About half of U.S. adults age 20 or older are coffee drinkers. Coffee is the principal source of caffeine in this country, in addition to tea and soft drinks. Because it is a stimulant, the effects of caffeine on heart health are constantly being studied.

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Overall, the findings have shown that moderate coffee drinking of 1-2 cups per day is likely not harmful. Some studies have even shown beneficial effects of having up to 4 cups of coffee or tea, including reduced risk of heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke and type 2 diabetes; improvements in blood pressure; and reductions in all-cause mortality. However, the extent to which caffeine plays a role in these protective effects is still unclear. Coffee and tea are known to have high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which protect the body’s cells and tissue like blood vessels and heart muscle. Therefore, more studies are needed to distinguish the benefits of the antioxidants from the effects of the caffeine. Continue reading

Energy drinks and your health

Are they safe?

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The number of emergency room visits associated with energy drinks has skyrocketed since 2007.

Energy drinks — Red Bull, Monster Energy and Full Throttle, just to name a few — are the fastest-growing beverage in the entire beverage industry. In 2012, Americans spent $10 billion on energy drinks. Makers of energy drinks tend to target advertising toward children and young adults, which might explain why three-quarters of individuals age 2-22 drink at least some caffeine — the main ingredient in energy drinks — daily. Even more alarming, 63 percent of children ages 2-5 consume caffeine on a daily basis, according to the March issue of Pediatrics.

How much caffeine is safe?

Energy drinks can contain up to 500 mg of caffeine per serving. In comparison, coffee averages 100 mg per cup while cola averages 35-55 mg per 12-ounce can. Too much caffeine can lead to anxiety, hyperactivity, insomnia, increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established 400 mg of caffeine per day as a safe limit for most adults; however, the agency has not set a safe limit for children and adolescents. Continue reading