The Health Risks of Energy Drinks – What You Need to Know

Energy drink cans.

Energy drinks, used by an ever-widening group of consumers to increase stamina, is a largely unrecognized health danger for workers. In the U.S., energy drinks remain unregulated, undefined by regulatory bodies, and embroiled in wrongful death lawsuits. The regulatory lapse has led to variations in labeling (some bearing supplemental facts, others nutritional facts) and questions about their safety.

Reports of adverse health events related to energy drinks are increasing steadily. According to The DAWN Report (2013), emergency department visits increased to nearly 21,000 in 2011, and despite the reported health issues and lawsuits, 2012 sales of energy drinks and shots totaled over $12.5 billion in the U.S. Industries that employ higher male populations are at a higher risk because they are the largest group of consumers.

Recent studies have discovered significant dehydration, hypertension, fatigue, higher rates of illness, and mental health disorders among workers who consumed energy drinks. Negative side effects reported to poison control centers and emergency departments related to energy drinks include liver failure, psychosis, chest pain, hypertension, cardiac arrest, kidney failure, gout, rhabdomyolysis, co-substance abuse, heat intolerance, and death. Often the effects are blamed on the high levels of caffeine in the drinks, but little research has been done to examine the effects of caffeine versus the combinations of stimulants, sugar, amino acids, vitamins, and herbs in the drinks.

Here are some things business owners can do to avoid the health risks of energy drinks on their employees:

  • Create a corporate culture that discourages energy drink use.
  • Educate employees on the dangers and encourage them to limit or eliminate energy drinks, particularly those at a higher risk for side effects, including:
    • Those who work in hot environments
    • Those who engage in physically demanding work
    • Those with comorbid conditions
    • Those with signs or symptoms of cardiac issues
  • Offer healthier alternatives to support energy needs.

Secondary prevention measures include a physical assessment – with a review of the medical history and job description, check of current hydration status, and vital signs.

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