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TRUE! Energy drink consumption has great health risks

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CLAIM: Energy drinks corrode the lining of the stomach, inflame the liver, fry the brain, and interfere with the synthesis of testosterone.

TRUE! Energy drink consumption has great health risks

VERDICT: TRUE. Available publications and experts’ statements attest that energy drinks corrode the lining of the stomach, inflame the liver, fry the brain, and interfere with testosterone synthesis.

Full Text

To attain more energy, strength, alertness, and concentration, individuals who engage in heavy-duty activities and marathon hours of consuming tasks, such as sports, academics, and industrial preoccupations, are in the habit of chugging energy stimulants to complete their tasks.

A Facebook user, Olubukola Oyenike Akeju, posted on a Facebook group asserting that consuming energy drinks poses health threats to some body organs, including the liver.

“Dear men, (t)his is for you. No man should drink energy drinks. Energy drinks corrode the stomach lining…inflame the liver…fry the brain…interfere with testosterone synthesis,” a part of the post reads.

The post gained 888 likes and 134 comments on Thursday, August 17, 2023. 

Many people thought the post was insightful and immediately typed in their “Thank yous.” But a few further thought that the relevance of energy drinks should be questioned in the same vein. 

“So what then is the health benefit of energy drinks? If it has nothing to offer, why does NAFDAC approve it for consumption? It’s another thing entirely to take an excessive amount.” Regina Mekeme Nelson criticised.

There was also the question of the health dangers potentially occurring only in men.

“Is it only men that (drink) energy drinks?” Symbolicman Obinna queried.

Although the issue appears informative, it has generated controversy, prompting DUBAWA to research the claim.

Verification 

The eyebrow-raising components in energy drinks should strike as a reasonable concern, as revealed by Cable News Network (CNN) Health publication.

There is a large proportion of caffeine, concentrated sugar, vitamins (B vitamin), legal stimulants such as guarana; a commonly grown plant in the Amazon; taurin; a form of amino acid found in meat and fish, and L-Carnitine, a substance in the body that turns fat into energy.

Despite the argument put in by the American Beverage Association (ABA) that such materials such as vitamins and amino acids are also present in natural foods and plants, CNN quotes health expert Katherine Zeratsky, who works at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, as saying that the quantities of those materials in energy drinks are “often in higher concentrations than naturally in food or plants,” and terms the effect it will have when combined with caffeine as “enhanced.”

Sports Cardiologist Dr John Higgins of the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Centre, Houston, who was a major discussant in the publication, describes the threats of energy drinks to the cardiovascular system and attributes them to the reaction of caffeine, amino acids (taurine) and vitamins (B vitamins).

According to him, energy drinks have a reputation for raising stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure and making the blood slightly thicker. But these are a result of taurine, which affects water and mineral levels in the blood, and the addition of guarana, which contains caffeine content. This only increases the total amount of caffeine in a drink.

But do energy drinks react adversely on the stomach, liver, brain, and testosterone?

The Health line says caffeine, usually present in tea, coffee, soda, and energy drinks, has “side effects” no different from “anxiety, restlessness, tremors, irregular heartbeat, and trouble sleeping.” 

It can also cause neuronal-related problems such as “headaches,” “and migraine,” and trigger high blood pressure.

Michigan Medicine of the University of Michigan points out that caffeine in energy drinks “increases gut motility” or even the “contraction of muscle” that controls the contents in the gastrointestinal tract. It says it can lead to “loose stools” (diarrhoea), which can further be responsible for dehydration. 

The paper further relays that caffeine in energy drinks can trigger emergency diuretic sessions, which means it can “increase urine output”. It is also responsible for cases of insomnia and anxiety issues which in turn can cause gastrointestinal conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

LiveStrong says that energy drinks commonly mixed with alcohol put the liver at risk, especially since there’s every tendency to take more due to the absence of intoxication. But the liver breaks down every content taken into the body and is vulnerable to the health repercussions of such toxins.

It further mentions that liver damage from alcohol is noticed in the blood, such as elevated liver enzymes. But a worsened liver condition, including fatty acid and cirrhosis, can be attributed to the constant intake of alcohol. 

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC NEWS), report revealed acute hepatitis in the liver of a construction worker after heavy consumption of an energy drink, four to five bottles a day. The man had been consuming “40 milligrams of niacin or 200 per cent of the daily limit,” the news report stated.

CBCNEWS quotes the World Health Organization (WHO) as revealing that hepatitis is caused by viruses worldwide but that toxic substances such as alcohol and drugs can cause it, too. However, drugs don’t cause inflammation of the liver to become contagious. Still, the intake of herbal or dietary supplements and their association with the liver are often “overlooked.”

The report further says there was a “strong correlation” between when the energy drink consumption began and when the hepatitis arose. And that the symptoms only “ceased” when the man stopped taking the energy drink.

The CNN Health publication affirms that the intake of caffeine doses, a quantity equal to or above 200 milligrams, can incur disorders linked to the brain. Health disorders such as insomnia, fatigue, restlessness, anxiety etc., are the likelihood of energy drink consumption. 

In another publication by Sutter Health, “headache, marked fatigue, anxiety, tremors and irritability” are the foreseen scenarios resulting from consuming energy drinks.

An article by Advantageja examined the relationship between caffeine and testosterone levels in males. It explains that while those who take coffee (caffeine) have a higher testosterone level, it is only for a “short term.” 

It further reports that the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism had conducted a study on a group of athletes who had taken varied doses of caffeine before their routine exercises. And they concluded, after that, that although caffeine has the “potential to elevate testosterone levels,” it at the same time increases 

high levels of stress hormones, which can be a “hindrance to testosterone production.”

Are the health risks of energy drink intake limited to males?

A Boston University School of Public Health study has revealed that consuming soda and energy drinks by males can affect pregnancy in couples and is less likely in female energy drink consumption.

The report informs that in a study, Reproductive Toxicology, female caffeine intake has no “appreciable effect of fecundability” or the chances of couples experiencing conception. But it mentions that the case is not the same for men as higher caffeine consumption, “≥300mg/day”, was responsible for a slightly lower fecundability. The study was conducted among 600 men who were among couples wanting to get pregnant, and the intake of sodas and energy drinks was found to be the cause.

However, the side effects of energy drink consumption remain risky to the male gender as to the female gender, as an article written by Women Health Editors explains. 

What Experts say

Consulting with Abdusalami Olayinka, a dietician at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, about the major contents in energy drinks, he remarked in contempt that the ingredients do not provide the nutrients producers ascribed to them. He added that he wouldn’t “recommend” vitamin B12 in energy drinks as a source of vitamins and that caffeine in such mixtures only triggers an “early risk of hypertension.”

He further stated that caffeine causes “neurological and psychological effects” and intoxicates, especially when taken “above 200 milligrams.”

He also explained that due to the mixture of its (energy drink) content, “high concentrated sugar” is added to it but can cause gastrointestinal upset. He further identified the risk of energy drinks intake on the liver and clearly stated that the content “overworks the liver” as the bile continuously filters out waste. 

The dietician didn’t hesitate to mention the frightful repercussions of energy drinks to the synthesis of testosterone, which he says will lead to “primary and secondary infertility” due to pressure on the stress hormones. He said this is because males gulp more energy drinks than females, which puts them at more risk, but there are no varied effects on both genders, Mr Olayinka submitted.

Another dietician and lifestyle coach, Temiloluwa Omotoso, also stated that the intake of energy drinks depends on the “age bracket”. She stated that the risks far outweigh its benefits. She was referring to caffeine, a main ingredient in the production of the drink. She relayed that it affects the “cardiovascular system.” 

She also explained that caffeine in energy drinks “increases (stress) hormones,” which can trigger “blood pressure in the long term” in individuals. Further inquiries into the effects of energy drinks on different genders, the dietician answered that it isn’t “peculiar” to gender but depends on an “individual’s body system.”

Conclusion

The claim is true. Available publications and experts’ statements attest that energy drinks corrode the lining of the stomach, inflame the liver, and interfere with testosterone synthesis.

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