(NaturalNews) Energy drinks have become a modern day phenomenon, with tens of millions now being consumed daily. What's not to like about having more energy and alertness, particularly if it comes from beverages which often tout herbal and other "natural" ingredients? As it turns out, there is a very great deal not to like - including unhealthy ingredients and potentially dangerous health consequences.
Some of the more common unwelcome side effects of energy drinks include elevated heart rates, hypertension, anxiety, headaches and interrupted sleep patterns. Earlier this year, a report in the medical journal Pediatrics warned against energy drinks and cited potential harms including heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death.
Late last year, poison control centers started tracking energy drink overdoses and side effects nationwide. 677 cases occurred from October through December. The chart's list of reported energy drink-related symptoms included seizures, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, chest pain, high blood pressure and irritability.
The two most common ingredients found in energy drinks are sugar and caffeine; both of which provide temporary stimulation but can result in actual long term energy loss due to stressing the adrenal glands and causing adrenal fatigue.
Just one of a huge number of health risks caused by processed sugar is the risk of diabetes, a disease which has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Very large amounts of sugar can ultimately overwhelm the pancreas, the organ which generates insulin to offset sugar intake. If the pancreas becomes "worn out" by being overworked from too much sugar, diabetes can begin.
Some energy drinks contain up to 7 times as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. While small amounts of caffeine are not generally considered dangerous, too much can over stimulate the central nervous system and can dangerously elevate blood pressure and heart rate. Caffeine is also addictive and withdrawal symptoms include headaches and irritability. Caffeine also causes a loss in valuable B vitamins which are needed for "normal" energy creation.
When sugar is not used, dangerous artificial sweeteners are employed. Perhaps the most dangerous is aspartame; though increasingly, the sugar substitute of choice has become sucralose. Sucralose is a chlorinated organic compound, a chemical group which includes several compounds known to be harmful to animals and plants and which has been linked to birth defects and other prenatal conditions. The body does not recognize artificial sweeteners like sucralose as food, but instead essentially processes them as toxins.
Other potentially dangerous ingredients commonly found in energy drinks include:
*Sodium benzoate. Last year a study conducted by an expert in molecular biology and biotechnology linked the common energy drink preservative sodium benzoate to cell damage and an increase in the production of free radicals. Even more concerning, sodium benzoate in combination with vitamin C causes the potent carcinogen benzene.
*Phenylalanine. Though an essential amino acid, phenylalanine is also a neurotoxin and is one of the three main ingredients which make up aspartame. Too much can excite the neurons in the brain to the point of cellular death.
*Guarana. Guarana (or guaranine) comes from the seeds of the guarana plant, which contain up to 3 to 4 times the caffeine as coffee beans.
*Ephedra. Ephedra has been described as a drug that increases heart rate and blood pressure at low doses and causes strokes, seizures, and possibly even death at high doses.
There are far safer options for achieving greater energy than energy drinks, such as super foods powders for example. The very best long term option is an active lifestyle combined with adequate sleep, avoidance of energy robbing toxins and stress and a healthy nutrient-dense diet.
Tony Isaacs, is a natural health author, advocate and researcher who hosts The Best Years in Life website for those who wish to avoid prescription drugs and mainstream managed illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives naturally. Mr. Isaacs is the author of books and articles about natural health, longevity and beating cancer including "Cancer's Natural Enemy" and is working on a major book project due to be published later this year. He is also a contributing author for the worldwide advocacy group "S.A N.E.Vax. Inc" which endeavors to uncover the truth about HPV vaccine dangers. Mr. Isaacs is currently residing in scenic East Texas and frequently commutes to the even more scenic Texas hill country near Austin and San Antonio to give lectures and health seminars. He also hosts the CureZone "Ask Tony Isaacs - featuring Luella May" forum as well as the Yahoo Health Group "Oleander Soup" and he serves as a consultant to the "Utopia Silver Supplement Company".