eli5: Why are caffeinated energy drink dangerous unlike coffee which is safe


I often hear that an energy drink is dangerous and will cause problems in the longterm while I don’t hear anything about coffee

Both contains caffeine, although an energy drinks gives much more energy and focus

In: 7

Coffee isn’t really SAFE, you don’t really hear much about coffee from a health perspective relative to energy drinks for a few reasons.

1. Caffeine content. By volume, they’re actually about the same but energy drinks tend to be packaged in larger volumes (16oz vs 8oz for a standard cup of coffee). Additionally they’re a lot easier to chug than hot coffee. For example, a cup of coffee will have around 95mg of caffeine, whereas a 16oz monster is about 210mg.

2. Sugar and other additives in many energy drinks. Sure, lots of people buy several hundred calorie vaguely coffee concoctions, but that’s typically not what people mean when they talk about “coffee”.

3. Coffee has centuries worth of cultural acceptance behind it – energy drinks are a pretty modern invention.

Coffee’s effective ingredient is caffeine and not much else. It’s well known how much caffeine is in brewed coffee or expresso and the amount is listed in packaged products. Therefore, it’s easy to know how much you’re drinking and the effects on your body.

Energy drinks have caffeine and a lot of other ingredients such as taurine, guarana, kola nuts, yerba mate, glucuronolactone, B vitamins, and ginseng in all different concentrations based on the brand. Each of these ingredients are not as well studied as caffeine and is difficult to study when combined with all the other ingredients. They can have unknown impacts on your health in the short and long term.

A while back, some energy drinks also contained alcohol. The burst of energy from the drink cancelled out the alcohol’s effects, causing people to drink more than they should and cause alcohol poisoning.


Its not that one is “safer” than the other its the target audience. Aint too many 13 year old running around drinking espressos whereas Monster on the other hand. Both aren’t particularly “unhealthy” but there are some side effects which Children are more prone too especially at the doses you’d get from mainlining a big gulp full of Red Bull or three.

A typical energy drink contains as much caffeine as 2 cups of coffee, and is a cocktail of various things like Sugar, B vitamins, ginseng, guarana, etc depending on the particular recipe.

The big concerns with energy drinks are two fold. One they are a relatively new product so we don’t really know the long term effects of consuming them in large quantities, and Two a typical can contains more than a single healthy serving.

Energy drinks are often sold in large cans that contain an arguably unhealthy amount of the product inside. Where I’m from some of the cans even say on the label that a suggested serving is less than half the can…

Due to heavy marketing energy drinks have become extremely popular and while drinking one every once in a while is fine there are people that chug a whole bunch of them back-to-back in a single afternoon.

That much sugar alone isn’t healthy for you, let alone the caffeine and everything else in them.

There’s various elements that make Energy drinks “dangerous”.

1) They usually contain 2 to 3 times the caffeine of regular coffee. While that in itself isn’t particularly bad for most healthy adults we go to point 2

2) Energy drinks contain a variety of other “energy enhancing” ingredients. They include, but are not limited to: Taurine, Niacin, Guarana, Ginseng, extra Sugar, etc. While none of these by itself, and in moderation are particularly bad, again for most healthy adults, the next problem then comes to point 3

3) Marketing & ease of over consumption. These drinks are marketed as drinks for pretty much every occasion that you may need energy. Problem is, that’s just about anything you do, and cool sports players and gamers all drink it. It’s also very flavorful and easy to chug. There’s more than several cases of people drinking several of these a day, for extended periods of time, leading to potential health problems from irregular, and prolonged, elevated heart rates, among other issues.

In the beginning, there wasn’t a real obvious, known problem. But at least now there’s been warnings of being careful over consuming them.

The caffeine amounts are comparable by volume, but energy drinks are often larger and consumed in greater quantities.

Also, caffeine **often isn’t the only stimulant present**. Others, like guarana, ginseng, taurine, l-carnitine, and even ephedrine may be added *in addition* to the caffeine.

Drug interactions are weird, and some drugs have *synergistic* effects (their effects magnify each other, rather than just adding to). Energy drinks are not regulated as drugs, so potential stimulant interactions may not even be officially monitored. [Studies](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8541613/) are limited.

There are more reasons than just the caffeine content that may make them dangerous.

Plus, energy drinks are typically loaded with sugar and lack the antioxidant properties that may actually give coffee some health benefits. They’re also often consumed like soda by people who wouldn’t normally drink coffee (like kids).

Too much caffeine is always a bad thing as far as I know. I think it boils down to caffeinated energy drinks having a very high content of it, compared to coffee.

If you compared 5 cups of coffee to 5 of the energy drinks the caffeine content would be significantly higher in the energy drinks, and most people know the effects of too much caffeine.

If the energy drink gives you more energy and focus, it’s possible that it has more caffeine than coffee (or contains other stimulants as well as caffeine). Caffeine is like most other things- it’s dangerous if you consume too much of it, but not a problem if you consume it at lower levels. Caffeine, like most things, can kill you if you ingest too much.

I think a lot of people never consider any dangers because it’s marketed a lot like other soft drinks. I never really liked coffee, but I’ve always been a soda drinker. For like 6 or 7 months, I’d get two 16 oz energy drinks (2 for $3) every morning on my way to work and drink them both, usually within my first hour of work. All of that caffeine didn’t keep me awake, but I was irritable as hell and my boss pulled me aside one day to ask me what my problem was. I quit for a while after that. I started having one every morning at work again a few years ago, and only quit because of lockdown in 2020.