BYH, so our president sided with ex-KGB head and dictator of Russia against our own intelligence agencies. Does this...

Are energy drinks safe?


Kathy Kolasa


Kathy Kolasa

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Q: I’ve been wondering what effects energy drinks have on your health. Are they really bad for you? — R.R., Greenville

A: Caffeine is the main ingredient in most energy drinks, but I prefer mine in a morning cup of coffee. Search the web with the term “benefits of caffeine or coffee” and you will get lots of hits. Energy drinks, like coffee, have no nutritional value (and sometimes a lot of added sugar), but both are popular drinks. Catherine Thriveni, a fourth-year Brody medical student, will tell you more so you can make up your mind if they are bad for you.

They’re found everywhere — from grocery stores to gas stations to coffee shops to bookstores. Energy drinks, which are allowed to be labeled as either a dietary supplement with a Supplement Facts label or as a food with a Nutrition Facts label, are popular with teens and young adults. Red Bull, Monster, 5-Hour Energy shots and others claim to increase alertness, attention and stamina when you’re feeling tired or drowsy. I’ll tell you about the ingredients and possible effects on the body.

Caffeine is the major ingredient in most energy drinks, ranging from 100 mg (1 cup of coffee) to 350 mg (3½ cups of coffee). If a drink is labeled as a food, like Red Bull and Monster, only added caffeine is required to be on the ingredient list. The Food and Drug Administration has a legal threshold for total caffeine (naturally occurring plus added) that is generally considered to be safe. Some manufacturers have started putting the amount on the label, while others list it on the product website. 5-Hour Energy shots carry a Supplement Facts label which does not require that caffeine content be listed or restricted.

The trade association for the dietary supplement industry is encouraging manufacturers to label caffeine per serving. The association also wants products to contain a warning that they are not intended for children or those sensitive to caffeine; and that pregnant or nursing women, those with a medical condition, or taking medications should consult a health care professional before consuming any drink that has more than 100 mg of caffeine per serving.

Energy drinks that contain guarana, a plant from Brazil that has a caffeine-like chemical, are likely to have more caffeine than advertised. In healthy adults, 400 mg of caffeine a day is considered safe, although some people start feeling negative effects at 200 mg. If you drink multiple energy drinks, along with coffee and caffeinated sodas, it’s easy to get more than 400 mg. You might experience an increased heart rate, irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, sleep problems, anxiety or even a seizure. So, you may want to tally the caffeine you consume as you consider if it’s bad for you.

In adults with underlying heart and blood vessel disease, consuming energy drinks has been associated with increased risk for heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest. Drinking an energy drink before, during or immediately after rigorous physical activity has been associated with abnormal heart rhythms and been linked to cardiac arrest and death.

Teens are at an especially high risk for complications associated with energy drink consumption. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teens should not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine per day — and never from energy drinks. In 2011, nearly 1,500 Americans age 12 to 17 were admitted to emergency rooms for energy drink-related issues.

Energy drinks also often contain taurine and ginseng. Taurine, a building block for protein, can support brain development and athletic performance, but there is no evidence that consuming the amount in energy drinks is beneficial. Although there’s little evidence, claims for ginseng include that it improves your mood, increases your athletic performance and fights off infections. Taking ginseng has been linked to high blood pressure and headaches.

Energy drinks contain extremely high amounts of vitamins B6 and B12. One brand has 8,333 percent of daily need of B12 and 2,000 percent of the daily need of B6. It was once thought that water soluble B vitamins when consumed in excess would be lost in the urine. We now know that isn’t necessarily true. Studies link taking too much B6 over time with irreversible nerve damage. Cases of damage to peripheral nerves — the ones in your arms, legs, hands and feet that help you feel and move — have been reported. The effects can be decreased sensation in the feet, balance difficulties, weakness and falls. It is possible to have this side effect after drinking at least 1½ bottles of a drink with 2,000 percent of B6 for an extended period. So, it’s best not to exceed 100 mg, the Upper Tolerable Limit for B6.

Additionally, energy drinks contain 25 to 50 grams of sugar, which is the upper limit women should have in a day (men can have 38 grams) especially if the person has diabetes or prediabetes, risks for obesity and dental problems. We don’t have space to explain, but we will warn you that mixing energy drinks with alcohol can lead to severe injury, too.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an affiliate professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


July 15, 2018


A TV viewer who I’ll call “Joe” recently commented on Facebook about my review of The Prime Smokehouse in Rocky Mount.

“Thanks for the review, Bob, but while I live in Raleigh, I'm a native of Rocky Mount,” Joe said with pride. “It once called itself the…

Bob Garner

July 14, 2018


■ Browns Chapel Holiness Church, 2260 N.C. 33 West, will host a youth service at 6 p.m. today. Evangelist Talitha Stallings will speak.

■ Burney’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, 2628 VOA Site B Road, will host its annual men’s day service at 11 a.m. July 22.

■ Burning Bush…

July 14, 2018

Mint, sage, rosemary, thyme, horehound, catnip, bee-balm, marjoram, pennyroyal, lemon-balm, hyssop, lavender, dittany and basil (is it BAY-zil or BAAA-zil?): what an aromatic bunch of plants these are! All of these are fragrant members of the widely distributed “mint” family, one of the…


July 11, 2018

The Leroy James Farmers Market vendor of the week is Yates and Bailey Bee Farm.

Yates and Bailey Bee Farm has been a vendor at the Leroy James Farmers Market for almost six years.

“I am a lifelong farmer,” said Bobby Yates, a Virginia native who got his first hive of bees at age 14.…


July 11, 2018

The smell and taste of food can catapult us back to our childhood, to a time when trips to family restaurants were weekly affairs, everyone knew our name, what our favorite drink was and how we liked our steak. The best part was the gleaming, rotating dessert wheel that was filled with every flavor…


July 11, 2018

Q I am trying to get more vegetables into my meals but still am struggling to make my goal. Got any suggestions? W.L., Winterville

A Congratulations on your efforts to improve your vegetable intake. As it happens, Kara Massotti, a new Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with ECU Family Medicine, just…


July 11, 2018

How do you like to eat watermelon? Undoubtedly, it's a summer treat. I remember hot New England summers when the air was so humid you could slice it with knife. My brothers and I would eat thick watermelon-smiles, as wide as our faces, leaning over the grass, while the juices dribbled down our…


July 08, 2018

Facebook back-and-forth can be civil but still confusing. This is a condensed online conversation I had this week.

(Me) Any family-farm Facebook friends know what this is in my backyard? Durn … looks like it will grow too tall to pass as ground cover or natural area.

(Farm guy) Looks to be…

Bob Garner

July 08, 2018

KINSTON — What stands out in Sammy Hudson’s mind after traveling to Philadelphia with a van full of teenagers is the last mile or so before arriving back home.

After a week spent working with the homeless, serving in an after-school program and feeding the hungry, they made their way…


July 08, 2018


Dear Short Answers: A couple of weeks ago, one of the guys I work with was fired. We’re not really friends but we hang out in the same places so we know a lot of the same people. He begged me not to tell anyone that he got fired because he didn’t want any of the girls to…

Short Answers
288 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 29
        Next Page»   Last Page»