Writing in the Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition (JISSN), the Research Committee of the Society concluded:
“While energy drinks containing caffeine and other stimulants may have negative effects upon health and cardiac parameters in individuals with such pre-existing health conditions, the current evidence (although small) suggests that consumption of energy drinks and energy shots are safe in healthy populations and similar to ingesting other foods and beverages containing caffeine.”
However, prudence is recommended for children, adolescents and other population groups, they said.
“Although it is estimated that only 1% of all dietary supplement adverse events are reported to FDA, given the number of servings of these products that are consumed daily, the rate of adverse events appears low in the population of consumers,” wrote the reviewers, led by Bill Campbell from the University of South Florida.
“Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that additional short- and long-term studies are needed to better determine any factors that increase the risk for adverse events.”
The authors noted that the media frenzy over the subject particularly concerns about excessive caffeine consumption and the mixing of energy drinks with alcohol. However, they added that safety concerns and use of alcohol are beyond the scope of their paper.
Being a sports nutrition society, the authors considered the potential benefits of the products for mental and physical performance, and the available evidence does support a role for the products for “focus, alertness, anaerobic performance, and/or endurance performance”.
Campbell and his co-workers performed an extensive review of the scientific evidence, and arrived at a number of conclusions/recommendations, including:
1. Despite containing nutrients with potential benefits for mental and/or physical performance, the main nutrients are carbohydrate and/or caffeine.
2. While caffeine’s effects on mental and physical performance are well-established, the potential additive benefits of other nutrients still needs to be clarified,
3. Consuming an energy drink between 10 and 60 minutes before exercise “can improve mental focus, alertness, anaerobic performance, and/or endurance performance”.
4. Energy products that contain numerous ingredients need “further study to demonstrate their safety and potential effects on physical and mental performance”.
5. There is limited evidence to support a potential benefit for body weight for low-calorie energy drinks during training, but the full calorie versions may promote weight gain.
6. Athletes should consider the impact of ingesting high glycemic load carbohydrates on metabolic health, blood glucose and insulin levels, as well as the effects of caffeine and other stimulants on motor skill performance.
7. The products should have a PG certificate, with children and adolescents only considering using them with parental approval.
8. “Indiscriminant use of energy drinks and shots, especially if more than one serving per day is consumed, may lead to adverse events and harmful side effects,” they noted.
9. A wide range of other groups should avoid using the products unless approved by their doctor. These groups include diabetics and individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular, metabolic, hepatorenal, and neurologic disease who are taking medications.
To read the ISSN’s full position stand, please follow the links below.
Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
2013, 10:1 doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-1
“International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: energy drinks”
Authors: Campbell B, Wilborn C, La Bounty P, Taylor L, Nelson MT, Greenwood M, Ziegenfuss TN, Lopez HL et al.