For those wondering if pounding massive quantities of energy drinks day in and day out is a bad idea: Yes, it is. There may not be a clear line between acceptable and ill-advised consumption, but it appears four to five cans on a daily basis is over the threshold. A British Medical Journal report reveals such dietary habits can result in a nasty case of hepatitis.
A 50-year-old construction worker, deemed to be “previously healthy,” began a binge on highly caffeinated beverages to stay sharp on the job. Three weeks later, he was experiencing symptoms including anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, generalized jaundice, scleral icterus — his eyes were turning yellow — and dark urine. The man’s liver was damaged due to a case of severe acute hepatitis. With no other dietary or lifestyle changes reported, doctors blamed the condition on his energy drink habit.
Specifically, they blamed the ingredient niacin (aka vitamin B3) for the man’s development of hepatitis. Other ingredients found in energy drinks “are known to cause toxicity with overdose,” but only over-consumption of niacin is known to cause liver damage. The BMJ report doesn’t mention specific brands, but Gizmodo notes household names such as Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar all contain niacin. An 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull boasts 21.7 milligrams of the ingredient, which is 108 percent of the recommended daily value.
The man did not develop liver failure, fortunately, and he recovered after a brief hospitalization. Obviously, he’s been advised to quit the energy drinks cold turkey. While four to five cans resulted in liver damage, at least he wasn’t throwing back 28 cans a day. That can lead to brain swelling, as one woman in Northern Ireland discovered last year.
• Rare Cause of Acute Hepatitis: A Common Energy Drink [BMJ]
• Man Develops Severe Hepatitis After Binging on Energy Drinks For Three Weeks [G]
• Drinking 28 Cans of Red Bull a Day Will Make Your Brain Swell [E]