The Dangers of an "All-Nighter:" The Health Risks Associated with Energy Drinks?


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So not only do I have the blog posts for SC 200 due tomorrow, but I also have a midterm for one of my hardest classes.  As I sat at my computer today thinking of my impending workload--and my subsequent plan to stock up on energy drinks-- I stumbled on an article on Huffington Post.  The article was about a 14-year-old girl who died from cardiac arrythmia.  According to the article, the teenagers's fatal arrythmia was linked to caffeine toxicity which was then linked to her consumption of two 24oz. Monster energy drinks in one day.  This story also reminded me of the media attention given to several Four Loko related deaths a few years ago.  This study that I found recognizes the dangers of energy drinks, like Four Loko, that are mixed with alcohol, but contends that those (like the Monster consumed by Anais Fournier) are also dangerous.  Interestingly enough, it also makes the case that those who are consume energy drinks without alcohol are prone to alcohol dependence down the line.

The family of Anais Fournier, the girl in the article, is currently suing Monster for the death of their daughter.  By way of the Freedom of Information Act, the Fournier family learned that there were five others fatalities in recent years linked to consumption of the Monster drinks.  Reading this the a few hours before planning to pull an "all-nighter," I naturally freaked out.  

While carefully selecting my Red Bull a few hours later (making sure it was less than 24oz.) I got to thinking: what are the signs of a caffeine overdose?




Currently, the FDA has limitations (200 mg/dose) on the amount of caffeine that can exist in over the counter products. This is equivalent to a 12oz. cup of brewed coffee.  One 24 oz. can of monster contains 240 mg of caffeine (7x the amount in a 12oz. soda), meaning that Anais consumed 480 mg of caffeine when she drank two cans.  While reading about the amount she consumed, I wondered: what exactly is in these drinks?  Curious, I looked up the ingredients, and listed just a few of the many that I have no idea how to pronounce. Your guess as good as mine when it comes to what some of these things are:

  • taurine
  • caffeine
  • niacinamide
  • sodium chloride
  • glucuronolactone
  • inositol
  • guarana seed extract
  • pyridoxine
  • hydrochloride
  • ...just to name a few!


Some of the effects of caffeine overdose can be seen in the diagram above. The most common symptoms I was able to find related to increased heart rate, heart palpatations, nervousness, and other symptoms that would be associated with a overdose of a stimulant.  Currently, there is no scientific information that leads us to believe that caffeine affects people differently based on their race or sex. 

In light of the dangerous health risks posed by caffeine consumption, pressure has been put on the FDA by several members of Congress to impose stricter limitations.  When it comes to sodas, the FDA limits the caffeine to 0.02% of the drink.  Surprising, there exists no such limit for energy drinks. 

More information related to this topic can be found at: 




4 Comments

This post in particular caught my attention because well... what do you know... I'm pulling an all-nighter for my assignments right now !

Pulling an all-nighter isn't something that is new to me. I have been pulling all nighters since junior high school, and in high school all-nighters became a day to day thing.

I never tried energy drinks until my junior year of high school. Junior year was of course the most stressful because it was the year "you're supposed to work the hardest." Senior year was difficult as well because I was applying to college. In addition, I had several APs both years.

The only energy drink I've ever tried is 5 hour energy. From my experience, it either worked for STRICTLY 5 hours or it didn't work and I just convinced myself that it did. Regardless, I still drank it. I found myself mixing it with water or orange juice because the taste is not pleasant at all.
Too much of anything is bad for you, but Do you think energy drinks can be substituted with something else? Or do you think there are any other common foods that aide in keeping people awake?

Thanks for informing this AFTER i pulled an all-nighter on energy drinks. Of course, I know it's bad but it's essential in college. I find energy drinks as a better substitute to coffee and it's more accessible at night when you need to grab some. Like Jael, I didn't try energy drinks until pretty late, Freshmen year of college for myself. I've also heard reports of monsters being linked to deaths as well!
I also wanted to ask what would be good substitutes. How do you feel about fruit being an acceptable substitute. Or, as unhealthy as it is, sodas filled with caffeine such as Mountain Dew?

Although energy drinks are unhealthy as you suggest on their own, I found an article that suggests mixing them with drinks like Gatorade has become a major problem among high school athletes. the National Federation of State High School Associations cautioned that caffeinated energy drinks — often confused with such products as Gatorade, a fluid replacement drink — should not be consumed before, during or after physical activity because they could raise the risk of dehydration and increase the chance of potentially fatal heat illnesses. In Orange County, California, at least four high school football players were taken to the emergency room last season with rapid heartbeats after consuming the combination, said Michael F. Shepard, a team physician and member of the California Interscholastic Federation's state medical advisory board. Do you think this trend is becoming a problem among college athletes as well as they try to keep up with their active schedules? http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/story/2011-12-01/young-athletes-and-energy-drinks-a-bad-mix/51556148/1

I actually wrote a blog similar to yours about caffeine. When doing research it really shocked me what exactly they put in energy drinks. I looked up the ingredients in an energy drink as well. A science teacher of mine in high school always said that when looking at ingredients in a food or drink item, if it is hard to pronounce, it is most likely not good for you. This is defintely true when looking at the ingredients for a Monster or Amp. Energy drinks are packed full of so many bad things for your body, aside from the extreme amounts of caffeine it contains. I did not know the amounts of caffeine in an energy drink were that much more than coffee, but they top coffee by an unhealthy level. This definitely has made me rethink my choice of drink when I have a late night of studying ahead of me.

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