The world of energy drinks is a mystifying one. The connoisseurs swear by them. Detractors try their best to warn people of their possible side effects. The average person on the street tends to not have too much of a clue either way.
Let’s take a look at the evidence behind the safety of energy drinks and whether they have any specific damaging effect on the kidneys.
If you do not include coffee, (which technically might be considered one of the first popular energy drinks to be mass consumed), Coca-Cola or Coke might have been the first modern energy/stimulant drink.
In order to understand the effects, it’s best to take a quick look at the common ingredients that most energy drinks have. Here are some common “energy” ingredients:
For the entire bad rap that teenagers and young adults get about consuming copious amounts of energy drinks, an FDA report found that they consumed one-third the amount of caffeine as adults or about 100 mg per day. Only a small portion of this caffeine actually came from energy drinks.
An interesting fact to bear in mind is that in the US, a manufacturer is not required to mention the amount of caffeine on a food label. This is largely because of a technicality. The nutrition info panel that we see on food labels is necessary to mention information only for nutrients.
However, high levels of taurine in the blood can have damaging consequences and this is especially likely to occur in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Symptoms from such accumulation have been reported in the literature before. It is debatable however if ingesting taurine found in a typical single serving of most energy drinks enough to reason serious harm to most people with normal kidneys.
Besides the harmful effects reported from taurine accumulation with excess intake, data exist which have associated varying effects ranging from acute renal failure from excessive Red Bull consumption, raise in systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as heart rate, and even reduced blood supply to the brain.
The Energy-Drink Manufacturers Stand
Currently, most manufacturers participate in voluntary and mandatory reporting on the adverse effects of their respective energy drinks. The current official line from the manufacturers seems to be that, well, insufficient data exist with regards to most ingredients found in major energy drinks and therefore, a reason and effect relationship between an energy drink and death/illness cannot be conclusively established.