Energy drinks equal toxicity

Energy drinks that contain sugar typically have around 225 calories per 16-ounce can.

by Dr. Theresa Ramsey — 

If there are any products that bespeak our ever increasing fast-paced lifestyle, they would have to be the energy drinks people consume to become more alert or to enhance athletic performance. A plethora of them are on the market to provide a quick pick-me-up.

Yes, energy and sports drinks can pick you up, but many also cause a great bring-me-down — either acutely, meaning that you’ll feel the drop that day, or chronically, meaning that you’ll pay the price over time, without realizing the undue harm you are putting on your natural energy centers, your adrenal and thyroid glands.

Before we look at the drinks, let’s explore why they have become so popular. Most of us live with a higher level of stress than is natural for the body to keep up with. This requires more energy. Since the body can only do so much, this demanding lifestyle makes us dependent on outside sources of energy.

Before opening that first or next energy drink, stop and take inventory of how you can create more natural energy in your body. Are you sleeping well? Are you eating well and stabilizing your blood sugar throughout the day without large swings? Are you exercising moderately? Are you able to relax at regular intervals during the day or week? Do you enhance your nutrition with energy-building B vitamins, minerals and amino acids?

In general, when you consume an energy drink, you experience an immediate and unhealthy energy swing, created by the high caffeine (average 230 mg per 16-ounce can), and sugar content (on average 40 grams). It’s even worse when the drink contains chemical sweeteners the body cannot metabolize.

Energy drinks that contain sugar typically have around 225 calories per 16-ounce can. One teaspoon of cane sugar equals four grams of sugar and 15 calories. These drinks contain, on average, 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is about equal to a can of Coke.

Let’s compare these drinks to a Starbucks coffee. The tall house-blend coffee of the day has about the same amount of caffeine as these energy drinks. When you make a fancy drink like a Mocha or a Frappuccino, the caffeine content is cut in about half because of the milk.

The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA), as determined by the FDA, of carbohydrates is 50 to 100 grams daily. There is no RDA for sugar, as it is best to get your carbohydrate intake from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Many of the energy drinks contain taurine. It works as an inhibitory amino acid in the brain, which means that it relaxes the body and also is known to prevent epileptic seizures and cardiac arrhythmias at daily dosages between 400 to 1,200 mg. Taurine helps hold potassium in the cells, which is necessary for creating energy and dilating blood vessels.

An inhibitory neurotransmitter acts like a depressant. The energy (caffeine) drinks that contain taurine, therefore, create both a stimulatory (caffeine) and inhibitory (taurine) effect at the same time. This causes a lot of stress on the body — which is why there are many cases linking sudden death with cardiac events related to combining either alcohol or exercise with energy drinks containing caffeine and taurine. If the warning on the bottle reads, “not recommended for use by children, pregnant women or people sensitive to caffeine,” why would anyone take a chance?

Caffeine is a lot like the hormone adrenaline; they both stimulate the body. The body was not designed to live with constant stress, during which high amounts of adrenaline and cortisol are secreted. The body can only handle stress well if these hormones aren’t oversecreted or if the receptors have not become resistant to these hormones. Not only do we live with more stress than in recent centuries, we are now imbibing stress from a bottle.

The body needs certain nutrients to produce energy to help it handle stress well. These nutrients both preserve adrenal secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, as well as enhance the sensitivity of the receptor sites to these hormones, which are also co-factors in many detoxification pathways in the body.

So it’s your choice: you can dehydrate your body with artificial stimulants, you can exhibit both inhibitory and stimulatory reactions at the same time and you can put your body in a constant state of stress. Over time, not only will you become dependent on these drinks, but you will gain weight and lose vitality, as your fat cells become irresponsive to adrenaline, and you lose the essential nutrients and self-made hormones that preserve your vitality.

The very reason energy drinks have become so popular is the same reason we are seeking anti-aging therapies. Stress ages us. As we age, we become fatigued. Steps you can take to stay healthy include nurturing your adrenal glands, getting lots of rest, eating balanced meals and exercising moderately. If you take these measures, your energy level can skyrocket — the natural way — even as you age.


Dr. Theresa Ramsey, co-owner of the Center for Natural Healing in Paradise Valley, Ariz., is a naturopathic medical doctor with a family practice. Her specialty is in Functional Medicine, which explores the causes or paths to dis-ease. She is the author of Healing 101. 480-970-0077 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 6, December 2008/January 2009.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Web Analytics