Within the past decade there has been a growing popularity of energy drinks of which there are innumerable brands that you can find in literally every store in the country. From corner curb stores to large supermarket chains you will see at least two or three brands in the cooler behind those tempting glass doors. The problem with energy drinks seems to be that no one really knows for sure what the long term effects are, but based on the ingredients it is safe to assume that the most dangerous ingredient in them seems to be caffeine, and its deceptive counterpart, guarana.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misleading information floating around about guarana which touts it as being a ‘safer alternative to caffeine.’ Nonsense! The chemical in guarana that gives us that ‘boost’ is guarine which is, in fact, another name for caffeine! It just comes from a different plant. And of course, a rose by any other name is still a rose! While there is still a certain amount of controversy as to just what the long term effects of caffeine are, there are four major areas that have been associated (and well documented) with the long term effects of caffeine.
It is true that caffeine gives us that quick pulse of energy when called upon, but drinking caffeinated drinks over time will lead to a caffeine addiction. You may notice that I said ‘will lead’ to a caffeine addiction and not ‘may lead’ to one. You may not realize it but caffeine is one of the most addictive substances on earth and if you consume it every day over a period of years your body will become dependent on it in more ways than one. Caffeine addiction is not only in the area of energy, but caffeine addiction is also prevalent in other areas of the body as well.
Most of those OTC diet pills that claim to have a diuretic in them to help with water retention simply have caffeine. The caffeine is meant to provide extra energy that dieters aren’t getting from foods, but will also stimulate the production of urine which is what any self respecting diuretic should do. However, the downside to that is that over time, your body may become dependent on caffeine to stimulate kidney function and should you suddenly deprive your body of it, there could be serious consequences such as a loss of kidney function and a buildup of toxic urea.
Because we know that caffeine speeds up the heart rate and also has been known to elevate blood pressure, there is growing concern over the amount of people with cardiovascular disease that have spent a lifetime drinking coffee, and other caffeinated beverages such as those potent energy drinks that are loaded with it. There is empirical data which substantiates that caffeine may lead to arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Not only does it put you at risk for heart disease, but you may also be at an increased risk for strokes.
Of all the long term effects of energy drinks containing caffeine, osteoporosis is the least publicized risk factor. There are growing bodies of evidence that indicate the correlation between caffeine with the onset of and rate in which osteoporosis is evidenced in the body. This is thought to be because of the way in which caffeine promotes the loss of calcium in bones. While there is yet to be conclusive findings, evidence is leaning in that direction.
Of course there are also other long term effects that we are well aware of. Disrupted sleep patterns over a long period of time can cause permanent problems which have even been associated with sleep apnea. The real problem however is the fact that caffeine, and as a direct result of caffeine, energy drinks are addictive. A onetime beverage isn’t likely to cause any long term effects unless, of course, that rapid heart rate or elevated blood pressure causes an immediate arrhythmia leading to a heart attack. It is the long term effects we should be worried about, the greatest of which is addiction that leads to all the others.