Energy drinks ‘pose greater health risk’ than coffee
Physiological adverse events linked to consuming energy drinks were “significantly more prevalent” than those linked to coffee, according to data recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
However, the types of adverse events that occurred were similar between coffee and energy drinks, researchers added.
“There is little research to date on adverse events among children and youth. We wanted to compare the side effects of energy drinks with coffee to examine the assumption that it is only the caffeine in energy drinks that is associated with adverse events,” David Hammond, PhD, School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Ontario Canada, told Healio Family Medicine.
Researchers analyzed online surveys completed by 2,055 participants aged 12 to 24 years in Canada that assessed previous consumption of energy drinks and coffee.
Hammond and colleagues found that of the 1,516 participants who reported consuming an energy drink, 55.4% reported at least one adverse event. The occurrence of adverse events was significant in energy drink consumers vs. coffee consumers (OR = 2.67; 95% CI, 2.01–2.56), as was the proportion that reported receiving or contemplated receiving medical attention for adverse events (OR = 2.18; 95% CI, 1.39–3.41). In addition, 3.1% of energy drinkers had received or contemplated seeking medical help for their adverse event vs. 1.4% of coffee drinkers.
Researchers found that rapid heartbeat was the most prevalent adverse event reported (24.7%), followed by problems sleeping (24.1%), headache (18.3%), diarrhea/nausea/vomiting (5.1%), chest pain (3.6%) and seizures (0.2%).
“Most risk assessments to date have used coffee as a reference for estimating the health effects of energy drinks; however, it is clear these products pose a greater health risk,” Hammond said in the interview. “The number of health effects observed in our study suggests that more should be done to restrict consumption among children and youth. At the moment, there are no restrictions on children purchasing energy drinks, and they are marketed at the point-of-sale in grocery stores, as well as advertising that targets children.”
He also suggested primary care physicians notify patients that energy drinks should be avoided in younger patients or during physical activity, especially in patients who are subject to cardiovascular conditions.
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.