Energy drinks are not technical "food". It is not to waste them – that's just a fact and important in that.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates all products defined as food to ensure they are safe for human consumption. For example, coffee and soda may not be too high for caffeine to cause heart problems. But energy drinks are classified as additives, meaning they are not regulated – and manufacturers can freely push on how much caffeine within one can, no matter how nice they are. I can even mix caffeine with other stimulants in such a way that it can cause cardiovascular or nervous system problems.
That is why doctors are trying to explore the health effects of these caffeinated cocktails could be. A new study that shows that one drink can reduce the function of blood vessels makes headlines, but similar finds have lasted for years. The latest results were presented at the annual American Heart Association meeting. Back in 2015, researchers at Mayo Clinic presented a study at AHA's scientific sessions showing that one drink raised blood pressure and cortisol levels (stress measure).
A lot of concerns about these drinks come from their high concentration of stimulants. It is quite possible to overdose only caffeine (although it takes 5 to 10 grams of stuff, which would have more coffee than your stomach), and in combination with guarana, another stimulant, fewer amounts can have drastic effects.
But this is probably the most common thing on the basics. The World Health Organization released a meta-analysis of the energy drink study that stressed that "health risks associated with energy drink consumption are primarily related to their caffeine content." Overdose on caffeine does not necessarily lead to death but can cause heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, convulsion, metabolic acidosis and hypertension. And that can kill. The WHO study also reports that adults consuming energy drinks may increase the risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes (caffeine reduces insulin sensitivity).
Now you can ask why we do not see all of these risks associated with drinking coffee. Depending on the type, drinking coffee can absolutely have as much caffeine as certain energy drinks, though some energy drinks often contain caffeine as a glass of joe. (In the context, 8 ha coffee cups contain 100 mg of caffeine, Monster's cup contains 92, and Red Bull and Rockstar are both in the 80s, but Monster X-hall contains 221 mg according to Consumer Reports and Rockstar Energy Shot contains 229 Redline Energy goes to 316 mg of caffeine in one bottle.) The problem, the WHO notes, has more to do with the rate at which you dropped the drink: "Although some types of coffee may have caffeine levels comparable to energy drinks, coffee is usually consumed hot, slower. "You probably do not throw morning coffee, even if it is ice-cream, but you may easily drop the entire ice-water container in a few minutes. This sudden caffeine shingles could cause a heart attack, even if the total dose is equal to a strong cup of cold beer. (Of course, if you usually chugging cold brews or drinks multiple double-shot drinks every morning, the same risks are absolutely involved.)
Here in the United States we do not monitor the adverse events that are specifically related to energy drinks – they are all just compounded in caffeine. But some countries do. The German monitoring system suggests that since 2002, energy drinks have caused "liver damage, kidney failure, respiratory disturbances, anxiety, seizures, psychotic conditions, rhabdomyolysis, tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, heart failure and death." and each found about 15-20 serious drinking energy consumption complications in the period of about four to six years per piece (Ireland from 1999-2005, New Zealand from 2005-2009).
For these reasons, several countries have tried to completely eliminate energy drinks. France has even managed to forbid it shortly, but the companies submitted a request to the European Commission, arguing that there was no evidence that their drinks are actively insecure. Soon after the ban was lifted. Some German states have successfully banned Red Bull Cola after the 2008 study found small amounts of cocaine in the drink. Red Bull claimed that all active cocaine was removed from the cake plant used in their drinks, but the German ban was in place. Australia, Denmark, Uruguay and Turkey all have some form of ban on high caffeine drinks.
But in countries like the United States, energy drinks are sold all over the place and are actively sold to children and teenagers. 2011 review of health effects in the journal pediatrics stressed that young people may be particularly sensitive, as no safe levels of consumption have been established and may have unexplained heart or metabolic problems that energy drinks can exacerbate – not to mention the fact that they contain tons of sugar.
Despite the World Health Organization's recommendation that the caffeine content is limited to beverages, energy drinks in the United States are still completely unregulated and will remain so unless they are reclassified as food. In the meantime, you should probably stop drinking. They can be dangerous in small quantities, but nothing is healthy about them. Switch to coffee or tea, both of which will get you both in the morning and it will be harder to exaggerate. Or you can just go ahead and work on kicking your caffeine habit for good.
This post was updated to include more information on levels of caffeine in different energy drinks.