It's the promise of a quick boost when you're feeling tired, and it all comes in one can. But, it's still unclear what the exact effects of popular energy drinks can be. A recent study found that emergency room visits after energy drinks have doubled since 2007.
A few hours in the WNDU Newsroom and reporters are zooming by, deadlines quickly approaching.
Staying awake and alert at strange hours can be a challenge, especially for Morning News Photographer Brandon Kusz.
“On a normal day, I get up at about 1:30 a.m.,” explains WNDU Photographer Brandon Kusz.
While the early riser reaches for caffeine, it doesn't come in the form of coffee.
“I don't like the taste of coffee or hot drinks,” says Kusz. “I'll usually end up with a soft drink or energy drink. It does help me a little bit so I'm not that tired if I have to be driving that morning or I have a lot to edit. It helps me feel more alert.”
The boost in this can brings more than extra energy.
“Some of the ingredients are even hard for me to pronounce,” says Dr. Mark Lavellee from the Memorial Sports Medicine Institute. “We know methelzanthins, herbs, guanera, forms of ginseng, they're hard to say and hard to spell and we don't know what they do to the body.
Just think of it like this, a 12 ounce soda cannot have more than 65 milligrams of caffeine due to FDA regulations.
This small bottle of 5 Hour Energy packs in 138 milligrams.
So we put the effects to the test. Dr. Mark Lavallee took Kusz's vitals before having an energy drink.
Then, Kusz finished a can of his favorite kind, and 20 minutes later, he had his blood pressure measured again.
“It's kind of concerning,” says Kusz. “I don't know if in an hour it's going to go up even further.”
Going through even a couple of these cans a day can have serious consequences.
“They may be at risk for developing arrhythmia, there have been cases of people passing away after having a couple of these from fatal arrhythmia,” says Dr. Lavellee.
With more teens turning to energy drinks, some doctors see a red flag.
“There more than $5 billion a year spent on energy drinks and they are targeting adolescents in their advertising,” explains Pediatrician Dr. Charisse Johnson.
From animated commercials, to trendy campaigns, it's hard not to see one of the ads.
“If you look at adolescents that's where growth is occurring,” says Dr. Johnson. “If kids are more aware about the realities of these products when they see these commercials that glorify the side effects will be in terms of good things that will help them perform in school and sports, than that will help.”
Instead, Doctor Johnson suggests pushing teens toward natural options.
“Think about fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Johnson. “We're learning more and more about green vegetables that can give you more energy.”
“Caffeine is considered a drug I have not heard that they're limiting it,” says Dr. Lavallee. “Around 400 milligrams is what would be considered toxic, and the drinks of almost 300 milligrams in just one bottle.”
Doctor Johnson tells us she plans to start asking her patients about their energy drink consumption if they're coming in with irregular heartbeats. A question, she says, she never would've thought to ask just a few years ago.