Health Canada Warns Against Excessive Use of Energy Drinks or mixing them with Alcohol

According to Health Canada, excessive drinking of "energy drinks" or mixing them with alcohol can have serious health effects.

These drinks are available almost anywhere and are usually displayed alongside soft drinks, juices and sports drinks. Some of the brand names include:

     Red Bull Energy Drink
     Impulse Energy Drink
     Dark Dog
     Shark Energy Drink
     Hype Energy Drink
     SoBe Adrenaline Rush
     EAS Piranha Energy Drink
     AMO Energy Drink
     Red Rain
     Red Dragon Energy Drink
     Diablo Energy Drink
     YJ Stinger

They are meant to supply mental and physical stimulation for a short period of time. They usually contain caffeine, taurine (an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein) and glucuronolactone, a carbohydrate.

"Energy drinks" are not the same as sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade, which re-hydrate the body. Sports drinks also provide sugars, which the body burns to create energy and replenish electrolytes. Electrolytes maintain salt and potassium balances in the body.

The problems with "energy drinks" arise when too many are consumed or when they are mixed with alcohol. For example, they have become popular at all-night dance parties, bars, and clubs.

Many people drink them to keep up their energy during periods of intense physical activity or after exercise as a thirst quencher. But rather than re-hydrating their bodies, these drinks may actually lead to dehydration.

Canadian officials have stated that because of the effects they have, some "energy drinks" may have to be regulated as natural health products under the Natural Health Product (NHP) Regulations, depending on their ingredients (such as caffeine and vitamins), and the claims they make.

Under the regulations, natural health products have to undergo a review process for their quality and safety. They also have to display recommended conditions for use, as well as cautions.

Currently, only Red Bull Energy Drink is authorized for sale as a natural health product and bears a natural health product number (NPN). The safety of other “energy drinks” (including those listed above) has not yet been evaluated under the NHP Regulations.

Four reports of adverse reactions involving "energy drinks" similar to Red Bull Energy Drink, have been reported to Health Canada. In those reports, symptoms included: electrolyte disturbances; nausea and vomiting; and heart irregularities.

These four incidents involved improper use of "energy drinks," such as drinking them with alcohol or in greater quantities than recommended.

It was not possible, however, to tell if the symptoms reported were due to the effect of combining the "energy drink" with alcohol, or due to alcohol itself.

Health Canada warns that if you drink "energy drinks," be aware of the following:

•Red Bull Energy Drink is considered a health product in Canada and should be used according to the label instructions.

•Do not drink excessive amounts of Red Bull Energy Drink. The limit on Red Bull Energy Drink is 500 mL or two cans a day, as indicated on the product label.

•Do not mix Red Bull Energy Drink with alcohol.
•If you engage in intense physical activity or exercise, drink enough water to help re-hydrate your system.

•The safety profiles of other similar "energy drinks" have not been evaluated by Health Canada. It is not wise to drink excessive amounts of any "energy drink" or to mix them with alcohol.
•If you have an adverse reaction to an "energy drink", report it.

“Due to the reported adverse reactions, as well as the media attention surrounding the safety of Red Bull Energy Drink and similar products, Health Canada is monitoring their use and will take appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. This may include regulating other "energy drinks" under the Natural Health Products regulations.” 

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