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Small Drinks, Big Energy?

Published: September 6, 2012

Energy Drink

Energy drinks may seem like a quick fix, but they come with long-term risks. Photo courtesy Shutterstock.

Do products like 5-hour ENERGY work—and are they safe? For adults seeking the occasional boost, the answer is a qualified yes. Caffeine and other compounds in energy drinks help us stay focused and energized by triggering a spike in the stress hormone cortisol. But frequent use overworks the body’s cortisol producers (adrenal glands), interferes with sleep, and can boost heart rate and blood pressure.

A regular diet of energy “shots” of high-dose ingredient blends is a short-lived fix with long-term risks, says Nikol Margiotta, D.N., a specialist at The Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

“Many of us are running on an empty tank and then want to know why we—or our kids—are tired and can’t concentrate. Relying on energy drinks to get through the day is a big red flag to change your ways with better sleep, nutrition, and stress management,” Dr. Margiotta says.

For the occasional afternoon pick-me-up, try chocolate. “I like organic chocolate because it contains small amounts of phenylethylamine and caffeine for sharpness and focus. But I don’t do it everyday,” concludes the expert.

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