Health
Charlotte Hannah
January 24, 2013

Can Red Bull Kill You?


Photo credit: Red Bull

Energy beverages are advertised as magic moxie juice that will make you awesome at everything. Because of their mix of ingredients in quantities too small to be clinically relevant, and — more importantly — a ton of caffeine, energy drinks will pump you the eff up.

Need to play Starcraft for 18 hours straight? Down some energy drinks.

Need to cram for that big exam? Pour an energy drink over your cereal and let’s do this thing.

Need to skydive out of space? Motherflippin’ energy drinks.

But that’s not the whole story.

While energy drinks may deliver on their promises of increased alertness and a boost of energy, they also come with a set of dangers that shouldn’t be ignored.

In fact, a Health Canada report shows a suspected connection between Red Bull and the deaths of three teenagers. The FDA has received numerous filings citing the involvement of 5-Hour Energy in deaths and serious injuries such as heart attacks. While this doesn’t directly implicate either brand, it does suggest a connection between energy drinks and potentially harmful health consequences.

Energy drink-related visits to the emergency room have doubled between 2007 and 2011, CNBC reports. Most patients are teens and young adults. More than half go to emerg after consuming only energy drinks, while the rest have been downing both energy beverages and drugs or alcohol.

Because of the potential health risks of the beverages, a councilman in Chicago has proposed a ban on the production and sale of energy drinks that contain more than 180 milligrams of caffeine per container. The drinks have already been limited or outright banned in other states and countries as well.

So, what are some of the dangers of Red Bull and other energy beverages? Other than the fact that they taste like a musty gym bag full of rotten fruit, that is. Read on.

Dehydration

Some of them are marketed as sports drinks, but energy drinks may not be a great source of hydration for athletes because of the caffeine they contain. Excessive amounts of caffeine can cause dehydration. If you’re looking for a quick energy boost before the big game, eat an apple instead.

Caffeine overdose

Via: ICanHazCheezburger.com

While a single serving of an energy drink doesn’t contain dangerous levels of caffeine, taurine or any other ingredient, as with any product containing caffeine, the risk of caffeine intoxication is present if you drink too much.

One 8-oz. can of Red Bull contains about 80 mg of caffeine – which is about the same as a cup of coffee. According to a Health Canada report, healthy adults won’t suffer any adverse health effects related to caffeine so long as their intake doesn’t exceed 400 mg a day.

However, as the can size goes up, so does the amount of caffeine. For example, a 24-oz. can of Monster Energy contains 240 mg of caffeine — meaning that less than two cans in one day would put a healthy adult over the acceptable limit for caffeine consumption. Excessive consumption of caffeine can cause everything from the dreaded “gut rot” to anxiety attacks to heart palpitations and even death. Scary stuff!

Mixing with alcohol

It’s generally accepted that mixing stimulants and depressants is bad news, and this seems to hold true for the combination of energy drinks and alcohol. Some studies have shown that energy drinks, when mixed with booze, mask some of the effects of intoxication. This makes it easier to overimbibe. As well, both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which means that consuming them together could lead to severe dehydration.

All in all, consuming alcohol-laced energy drinks is probably a bad idea. At best, you might end up embarrassing yourself at the bar after being convinced to do Jagerbombs by some Affliction tee-wearing dudebro you’ve never met. Or, you could end up with heart palpitations, alcohol poisoning or worse. I don’t know about you, but none of those things seem particularly pleasant to me. I’m all for partying hardy, but downing a bunch of booze and stimulants at one time seems pretty ill-advised.

Conclusions

As with most substances, mindfulness and moderation are the keys to responsibly consuming energy beverages. Drinking too much at once, or relying on the beverages as a source of energy over a long period of time, probably isn’t good for you. Nor is the high amounts of sugar found in energy drinks and sodas.

If you have a heart condition, or have reason to believe you’re at risk for one, you should be checking with your doctor before consuming an energy drink.

P.S. Here at Twirlit, we’re not doctors, nor do we play them on TV. Please don’t take medical advice from the same website where you get your celebrity gossip. If you have any concerns about your energy beverage consumption, talk to your doctor, not a blogger.