What slamming an energy drink really does to your body

I’d like mine with a shot of high blood pressure.
I’d like mine with a shot of high blood pressure.
Image: Flickr/Daniel Juřena
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Energy drinks offer lots of benefits. They can, for example, dilute your Jagermeister, fill your bladder, and evoke the glamour of motocross, big mountain snowboarding, and other extreme sports you don’t actually participate in.

But what exactly happens to your body when that heady mix of caffeine, sugar, taurine and other stimulants crosses your lips?

A research team from the Mayo Clinic recently set out to find out.

Over two days, the researchers had 25 healthy adults down 16 ounces of Rockstar Energy Drink and a placebo drink of similar nutritional value but stripped of Rockstar’s stimulants.

They found that the energy drink raised subjects’ blood pressure and stress hormone levels more than the placebo did. Such changes could put energy drink consumers at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, the study’s authors wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Within 30 minutes of consumption, blood pressure rose 6.4% for the Rockstars versus 1% for the regulars.

Levels of norepinephrine, a stress hormone that regulates the fight-or-flight response, rose 73.6% for Rockstars and 30.9% for regulars.

The researchers then challenged the participants with stress-inducing tasks—gripping a hand weight, solving math problems, plunging their hand in cold water—to see if the drinks changed their response to physical, mental, or temperature stress. They didn’t.

The authors cautioned that their study used only a small sample and looked at just one drink brand. But as the Mayo Clinic has noted previously, if you really want an energy boost, consider sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet before a can of souped-up soda.