Are Energy Drinks Dangerous?

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Well I had planned on writing a particular blog today, but I got an interesting email from EC last night, and I thought I would delay that planned blog until tomorrow, and provide my thoughts on his email today.

Yesterday there was a piece written on EC sent me about energy drinks, their popularity,  lack of regulation, and potential health consequences of their consumption. Apparently this piece was written in conjunction with an E:60 segment on the topic. For those who don’t know, E:60 is basically ESPN’s version of 60 minutes, where they actually do some investigative journalism on a specific topic.

In the article there was also a video segment, and I highly suggest you check them both out before you read my thoughts on the topic of energy drinks, as I would rather not have my writing taken out of context.

In the piece it is mainly about a high-school football player who consumed two NOS energy drinks, and the following day suffered a seizure that his neurologist attributed to the two drinks. Those two NOS drinks contained a combined 520mg of caffeine, which is most definitely a significant amount.

The piece also mentions some other teenagers who have had reported events from energy drink consumption. These two kids though, had undiagnosed heart conditions.

So the piece basically asserts that these drinks can be dangerous and lead to seizures and potentially even death, and that no one (or at least high school kids) should consume them.

Here are my thoughts:

I am not sure I buy that 520mg caused this kid to have seizures, or is the only factor. Maybe it is, I am surely not a neurologist, but that is less than 4 cups of coffee. Nobody is pointing any fingers at Dunkin’ Donuts here.

The other kids they mentioned had undiagnosed heart conditions, so what would have happened when they went to college and drank jager bombs, or pounded coffee pulling an all-nighter?

The problem is people, especially kids, abusing these drinks, and caffeine in general. Two to three of those drinks, with the caffeine and other stimulants? I think most people “know” that that is definitely not a good idea, but they do it anyway. People “know” that smoking, chewing tobacco and driving without a seat belt are dangerous, and yet they do that anyway too.

To be honest I am really not a fan of energy drinks, my energy drink of choice is coffee (one is some man-made concoction of chemicals, one is real food). It contains a good dose of caffeine, it also has tons of antioxidants.Another concern I could see would be is if you can equally compare the caffeine in coffee, with all of its associated phytochemicals and antioxidants, and isolated caffeine in drinks (along with yohimbine, guarana, and other stimulants they pack in there). Is it the same, or does the isolation or combination with other stimulants make the caffeine more potent? Who knows.

Are these drinks dangerous? Define dangerous. Are they health-promoting? No. Will consuming one cause any issues? Probably not. Will abusing them and exceeding the warning on the label (which I admit reads more like marketing than a warning, but it is a warning none-the-less) potentially cause issues? I think this is clearly the case.

So to me, it is dose-dependent just like everything else. Is aspirin ok in recommended doses? Absolutely. Is it dangerous or deadly when consumed to excess? Absolutely.

The moral of the story is, don’t abuse any stimulant (caffeine, ephedrine, yohimbine, etc). Reasonable intake should pose no threat to health, but when you place high school kids into the equation, reasonable intake goes straight out the window, and that is the problem.

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Posted on October 28th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Shawniqua Says:

    At what age do you feel is apropriate for teenagers to start consuming high caffeinated drinks on a regular basis? What are your thoughts on expecting mothers and caffeine?

  2. Weekly Update: 10/31 Says:

    [...] Are Energy Drinks Dangerous (Brian St. Pierre) – BSP dives into Energy Drinks.  He’s not a fan, but one probably isn’t going to kill you. [...]

  3. Brian St. Pierre Says:


    Ideally teenagers wouldn’t start consuming energy drinks until they are 18. They are too easily abused.

    For expecting mothers I would keep the caffeine content to a minimum, below 200mg. 1 cup of coffee per day should be ok, but it is best to discuss with your doctor.


  4. The Home of BSP Training & Nutrition » Blog Archive » Stuff You Should Read Says:

    [...] Are Energy Drinks Dangerous? – by Me. I think this was a good piece that parents and kids should read. [...]

  5. More Links @ Ultimate Athlete Development Athletic Strength Training Sports Training Des Moines Says:

    [...] Are Energy Drinks Dangerous? – Brian St. Pierre – BSP is pretty much my go-to guy for most things nutrition related. I also think this topic is very relevant since energy drinks seem extremely popular among high school students and athletes. [...]

  6. Jannie Pucillo Says:

    i’ve seen good stuff in regards to xenadrine- do you recommend it?

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