Energy drinks have become a growth juggernaut in the beverage world. With a 10.5% growth rate in the previous year and almost half of consumers drinking them doing so several times per week, the trends are very favorable in this sector. In fact, according to Statista, global energy drink sales are projected to grow from $53 billion in 2019 to $86 billion in 2026.
But are they healthy?
Two recent Curtin Research studies attempted to answer this question through mouse studies. The goal was to measure whether there was a linkage between the frequent consumption of energy drinks and chronic health issues. While these studies conducted on mice are preliminary and directional, the results are concerning as it took very little time to see issues both in the brain and surrounding the heart.
- From a cognitive perspective, the energy drinks seemed to disrupt blood flow and blood vessel performance, and were associated with inflammation in the brain, conditions that are associated with neurodegenerative conditions in humans, such as Alzheimer’s.
- From a heart standpoint, the energy drinks seems to drive components associated with metabolic syndrome, even the sugar-free options. The term metabolic syndrome describes a compilation of metabolic issues tied to heart disease and Type II diabetes. There are typically five (5) components of metabolic syndrome:
- Obesity, especially fat accumulation around the waist
- High insulin levels, also known as insulin resistance (the precursor to Type II diabetes)
- High triglyceride levels
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
Focus on Natural, Non-Processed
More studies are absolutely needed to understand the cause/effect of energy drink consumption, but it should give us pause and seek to limit the number of times we consume these drinks until we better-understand the potential downsides. While having an energy drink every once-in-a-while is not likely to cause issues, if our goal is to live a healthier life through food/drink as healing fuel, there are better ways to combat fatigue and stay hydrated, such as:
- Flavored tea. With lemon, vanilla, and other natural flavorings that add no calories, tea can offer natural caffeine, will not stimulate insulin, and can actually offer healing and calming benefits.
- Flavored coffee. Again, without sugar or sugar substitutes, coffee is well-known for its caffeine. Some have found success with bulletproof coffee (adding ghee, grass-fed butter or MCT oil) as a way to fuel their day and prolong times between meals.
- Flavored water. Lemon, lime, cucumber, and other natural flavorings without sugar or sugar substitutes can enhance the most important beverage we consume.
- Sleep. Thinking that 5 – 6 hours of sleep is enough for most of us is simply a recipe for disaster. 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep helps us recuperate & heal.
- Intermittent fasting. Get off of the carbohydrate/sugar cycle by changing the frequency of meals/drinks. It’s amazing how much sharper and focused you feel when you extend the time between meals and encourage your body to use stored energy (ie, fat) as fuel. Plus, the advantage of autophagy as you move into extended fasts (18+ hours) helps the body clean up waste and rebuild.