Those who has drunk the energy beverage called Red Bull might be aware that its slogan since 1984 when it was first introduced into the Market is “Red Bull gives you wings”, meaning somehow that by consuming it you are freer.
To start with, briefly, I will tell you something that happened to me at my hospital in Cuba. It was a very exhausting day, and the last patient was a 16-aged male teenager who came in along with his parents which seemed to be very concerned for the lack of control of their child´s blood pressure despite the right measurements ordered to him over the past month when the diagnosis was made.
It was a moderate high blood pressure without known cardiovascular risk factors and all the tests indicated so far were within the normal range. The patient and his parents assured me that the non-pharmacological and pharmacological measurements are being carried out in good terms.
After a long chat where I could not find any insights related with this lack of blood pressure control, at last I asked him the following:
- Have you been drinking or eating something unusual without the knowledge of your parents lately?
- Doctor, the only new is that I have been drinking Red Bull beverages over the past three weeks while parting. He told me.
- But, tell me. Did you drink one a day? I asked.
- During the weekend, I try to drink one before a date with my friends. Really it makes me feel “stronger” and I do not get drunk easily by using it.
Those were the words of this adolescent, which are indicating in a direct form the real cause of the problem.
Effectively, the so-called energy drink, where, besides Red Bull, there are others well-known brands such as: Sting, Power Horse, Gold Street, Firer Horse etc; are traded for achieving a high fulfillment in terms of corporal energy.
Currently, it is reported that the consumption rate of these beverages is up to 30-50 % in adolescents worldwide. Amongst the compounds of these beverages stand out caffeine, vitamins C and B, sugar and others, depending of the brand.
Where is the principal problem?
Caffeine, the most active ingredient, with blood concentrations reaching three folds the concentrations in a Coca Cola beverage. This amount could be higher is some components as guarana are added.
After ingestion, caffeine is quickly absorbed and over a period of 30-60 minutes is possible to notice the highest concentrations (1)
The caffeine doses contained in most of the beverages vary between 80-300 mgs in 250 ml. Caffeine intoxication, is a clinical syndrome included in the Diagnosis and Statistics Mental Disorders Manual (DSM-IV) and in the World Health Organization Disease Classification (ICD-10).
It must be added, that as caffeine is an addictive drug, the regular consumption of energy drinks can lead to the development of tolerance and abstinence manifestations when the drug is withdrawn.
In addition, according to the medical bibliography, it has been identified some cases of abrupt high blood pressure, life-threatening arrhythmias and even death in regular consumers of those beverages (2,3)
With these simple lines I would like to draw the attention in regard with some several factors:
- Energy drinks are addictive.
- The ingestion of this sort of beverages for avoiding the drunkenness symptoms is a double edge sword and the result of blending caffeine plus alcohol and other compound could cause unpredictable damages on health.
- By drinking these beverages daily any person is also susceptible to develop refractory high blood pressure. So, I think that is mandatory that every doctor should know this. This, the inquiry about the regular use of these beverages must be an essential part of the medical interrogatory aimed at a patient with high blood pressure.
As a final comment, I encourage parents and doctor to talk about this topic with children and patients, respectively. Keep it in mind that these energy drinks might be the cause of a long night in a hospital or worse things when used indiscriminately.
Anyway, during Albert Einstein’s time or when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier running a mile, the Red Bull beverage did not exist, and both men were great in their action fields.
I do not intend to put Red Bull down. I am just warning on its uncontrolled use.
If you have eyes, read. If you have brain, think.
- Petit A, Levy F, Lejoyeux M, Reynaud M, Karila L: Energy drinks: an unknown risk. Rev Prat 2012, 62:673–678.
- Usman A,Jawaid A: Hypertension in a young boy: an energy drink effect. BMC Res Notes 2012, 5:591
- Rudolph T,Knudsen K: A case of fatal caffeine poisoning. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 2010, 54:521–52.
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