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Energy Drinks Give You Wings, and a Bunch of Terrible Side Effects

The good, the bad and the ugly things we learned about our bodies today

Here’s something we’ve known for a while: Energy drinks are not good for you. They’re chock-full of sugar and have enough caffeine in them to keep you wired for a week, not to mention the host of other shit that seems more at home mixed with powdered rhinoceros horn than in an FDA-approved ingredients list.

What we didn’t know, however, was just how bad they actually are — not just for your physical health, but for your mental health as well.

A new study in the journal Frontiers pops the easy-open tab on energy drinks’ terrible side effects. The problem, it would seem, is that energy drinks layer high amounts of caffeine — up to eight times that of a cup of coffee — with sugar and stimulants, most commonly guarana, taurine and ginseng. The health risks associated with the mixture read like a what’s what of bad shit: Risk-seeking behavior, i.e., substance misuse and aggression; anxiety; stress; increased blood pressure; obesity; kidney damage; fatigue; stomach aches; and irritation.

But you know what researchers say makes a mentally and physically harmful product even worse? The fact that a lot of people mix their energy drinks with alcohol, which can cause people to drink more than they normally would by masking the effects of the booze. Basically, they’re everything you need to put yourself at serious risk for alcohol poisoning.

So what can we do? Lead researcher Dr. Josiemer Mattei, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, suggests starting with limiting the amount of caffeine we put in these things. Another good step, according to Mattei, would be to restrict sales of energy drinks to children, which makes a good deal of sense to this writer.

They say Red Bull gives you wings, but when these wings are the kind that leave you an aggressive, anxious, obese and (when mixed with alcohol) overly-drunk mess, perhaps you’re better off drinking a cup of coffee.

A few other things we learned about our bodies today: