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Rethink Your Drink: The Real Effects of Energy Drinks

When you need a boost of energy, you have a lot of options. Unfortunately, many youth in Nova Scotia are making the wrong choice.

The popularity and increased use of energy drinks among youth in Nova Scotia is a growing concern for physicians. We’ve discussed the dangers of energy drinks many times, and will continue to have the discussion until we see positive change.


Most youth (and adults) consume energy drinks for the burst of energy that it offers. But there are better, healthier, and more effective ways to increase energy without putting your health at risk.

According to the Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey, youth in Nova Scotia are consuming energy drinks for the increased stimulation, attention and memory, decreased mental fatigue, and improved performance on some physical activities. In the 2012 Student Drug Use Survey nearly half of Nova Scotia Grade 7 students reported consuming energy drinks in the 12 months prior to the survey. This increases to 71% by Grade 12.

According to self-report surveys, energy drinks are consumed by 30-50 per cent of adolescents and young adults. (Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011).


Doctors know that highly-caffeinated beverages, like energy drinks, present significant health risks to children and youth. Even though product labels say they shouldn’t be consumed by individuals under 18 years or age, youth can still be drawn to the products through flashy advertising and product placement. Too much caffeine can result in nausea, vomiting, heart irregularities, and/or anxiety.

Highly-caffeinated beverages, or energy drinks, have been reported in association with serious adverse effects, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavior disorder with those who take certain medications.

A small amount of caffeine could also cause sleeping problems, headaches, irritability and nervousness.

According to Health Canada’s Expert Panel on Caffeinated Energy Drinks, energy drinks can have a negative impact on your health because of its high caffeine and sugar content. These ingredients lead to energy crashes, dependency, and cavities.

Health Canada also warns that there are possible side-effects in children and youth such as:

  1. Increased heart beat
  2. Cold sweats
  3. Shakes/jitteriness
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Increased urine
  6. Nervousness
  7. Nausea

Consumption of highly caffeinated energy drinks in youth may also be linked to depression and substance abuse.


Even with warning labels in place, we know that 25 per cent of Nova Scotia’s youth in high school are mixing it with alcohol. The consumption of caffeinated alcohol is a significant issue in Nova Scotia with a direct link between the consumption of caffeinated alcohol and increased injury levels.

With the combined effects of a stimulant found in caffeine and a depressant found in alcohol the subjective feeling of alcohol intoxication is diminished without reducing actual alcohol-related impairment. This leads to increased consumption of alcohol and a “wide-awake” drunk.

The increased perceived sobriety results in individuals drinking more, leading to more binge drinking behaviour.


The levels of caffeine found within some energy drinks contain as much as levels found within 14 cans of Coca-Cola. This translates to levels of up to 360 milligrams per serving. Health Canada currently recommends the maximum daily caffeine intake for kids under 12 is 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. So a youth who is 54 kilograms should not consume more than 136 milligrams of caffeine daily. Many energy drinks contain 360 milligrams of caffeine, more than twice the recommended daily intake.


Rethink your drink and choose water and a healthy diet to give you the energy you need. The vitamins and minerals found in these foods give your body the things it needs to promote good energy and health.

See also, Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much? to learn about caffeine consumption in healthy adults.