Energy drinks can be a good ally to work after a bad night’s sleep. However, it is possible that the drink is not as safe as it looks. It is speculated that energy drinks cause liver and heart problems, in addition to influencing headaches and even anxiety and depression rates .
All this because of caffeine, the main and most important component of energy drinks, which provides the energy effect of the drink. Therefore, the risk is not only in the consumption of energy drinks, but also in the consumption of coffee.
In Brazil, 21.5 million bags of coffee are consumed on average annually, equivalent to 1.07 million tons of the product, and many people go beyond the maximum daily dose because they cannot “work” without the drink.
According to the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), the American agency for controlling food, drugs and medication, the maximum daily dose of caffeine is 400mg, equivalent to approximately 3 cups of strained coffee.
When taken up to this dosage, caffeine does not have many negative effects – in fact, it has positive effects for most healthy people.
Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and works by increasing alertness, relieving fatigue and improving concentration and focus.
In athletes, it can increase endurance and accelerate weight loss, temporarily supply appetite and cause the body to produce heat and energy when digesting food.
If consumed in moderation, coffee can help to reduce the risk of several types of cancer , including.
But, again, if consumed without exaggeration, which is not the case for many Brazilians. There are people who drink more than 6 cups a day, exceeding the limits, and this is where the energy drink comes into the story.
A single can of energy drink, which contains around 350mL, can contain up to 300mg of caffeine, 3/4 of the maximum recommended dose. From there, it is enough that the person has a single cup of coffee to exceed the recommended limit.
How does excess caffeine act in the body?
Taking more than 400mg of caffeine – or 3 cups of coffee – a day can do some harm. Even if it has no noticeable effect on sleep, this amount can lead to irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure , nervousness, irritability and anxiety, causing problems for cardiovascular health as a whole.
In addition, caffeine also increases the secretion of the main stress hormone in the body, cortisol, best known for feeding fight or flight responses in situations of threat or crisis.
This hormone is produced by the adrenal glands when stimulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which, in situations of stress or danger, make the body maintain attention and respond more quickly.
The sudden increase in cortisol causes blood pressure to rise, the heart to beat faster and the energy level to rise.
This whole mechanism was quite advantageous for primitive human beings, as it allowed them to escape from predators. Today, however, few people have to worry about fleeing a jaguar in the forest.
Even so, a good portion of the population still lives in a state of constant biochemical stress, with this body alarm system on all day long – that is, constantly high levels of cortisol.
The big problem is that it can result in several health problems, such as anxiety, depression, problems with memory and concentration, difficulty sleeping, weight gain and heart disease.
Although cortisol responses to caffeine are reduced in people who consume the substance daily, they are not eliminated and the chronic elevation of the levels of this hormone in the body can cause long-term health complications.
Among the possible harmful effects are impaired responses of the immune system and the Central Nervous System (CNS), memory deficits and changes in the functioning of the frontal lobe of the brain and limbic system (areas of the brain involved in factors such as problem solving, judgment , motivation, attention, memory, learning, emotions and empathy).
In the case of people at risk for cardiovascular disease, the most serious adverse effect of excessive caffeine consumption is the ability to raise blood pressure, accentuating the risks to the body.
All of this was confirmed in a controlled study published in 2005 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine .
The effects of the energy drink on the body
Another study that shows the problem of high caffeine intakes, more specifically when we talk about energy drinks, was carried out at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, United States. He suggests that energy drinks can make blood vessels less efficient.
To arrive at the results, the researchers analyzed 44 healthy medical students and nonsmokers close to 20 years of age. They tested the effect of a specific energy drink, with 750 mL, on the cells that line the blood vessels, called endothelial cells – the amount may seem exaggerated, but it is actually available on the market.
The function of these cells was tested before consuming the drink and after 90 minutes of the energy drink was ingested.
After that time, it was found that the internal diameter of the blood vessels decreased considerably, that is, the blood vessels of the participants contracted in response to the intake of the energy drink.
The researchers responsible for the study speculate that the negative effect of the drink on the blood vessels comes not only from caffeine, but from the action of taurine , sugar and other herbs that normally make up these drinks.
The research pointed out, then, that the combination of energetic substances and sugar does not bring proven health benefits.
In this case, it is concluded that, like everything in life, caffeine consumption should also be done in moderation. In this way, you can take advantage of all the benefits of the drink without causing major health risks.