Energy drinks continue to grow in popularity. Despite their following, they may cause adverse effects if you have certain medical conditions or drink them excessively. Hospitalization is not unheard of for excessive energy drink intake. While kidney issues may not be directly caused by energy drinks, the ingredients could lead to other conditions that would harm your kidneys. Use energy drinks in moderation, if at all.
Caffeine is the main pick-me-up ingredient in energy drinks. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system and can increase heart rate and blood pressure. If you have hypertension or heart problems, it is best to abstain from caffeine. According to a review published in November 2010 in "The Mayo Clinic Proceedings," most energy drinks contain 70 to 200 milligrams of caffeine; some provide as little as 50 milligrams but others pack a 505-milligram wallop. The review notes that caffeine can cause side effects, such as insomnia, nervousness, headache, tachycardia, arrhythmia and nausea, if consumed in excess of 200 milligrams. Caffeine is also a diuretic, although the review notes that with regular use, it is probably not strong enough to cause kidney failure from dehydration.
Sugar is typically a main ingredient in energy drinks, except for sugar-free varieties. The Mayo Clinic Proceedings review notes that most energy drinks contain an average of 54 grams of sugar, about a fourth of a cup. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, this is enough to skyrocket your blood sugar levels. Constantly high blood sugar can cause kidney failure because of damage to the tiny vessels in the kidneys. In a study published in PLOS One, sugar was causally linked to diabetes. Consuming an energy drink every day could increase your risk for diabetes, and doing so if you already are diabetic could lead to kidney disease.
Even if your energy drink is sugar-free and contains less than 200 milligrams of caffeine, you may need to be concerned with other issues. Adverse events may occur due to the "blend" of caffeine and other energy providing herbal or vitamin ingredients. "The Mayo Clinic Proceedings" article notes that cardiac arrest, seizures, death and psychiatric effects have been reported following energy drink consumption. The deadliest of all blends is mixing alcohol with energy drinks, which may cause you to feel less intoxicated than you are and can amplify poor decision making, according to a review article published in January 2009 in "Drug and Alcohol Dependence."
One energy drink alone is not likely to cause your kidneys to fail. Repeated energy drink consumption, though, may lead to heart problems, high blood pressure or diabetes. If you already consume energy drinks, limit your intake to no more than one a day. Don't use them at all if you have heart problems, diabetes, hypertension or seizures. Also, check with your doctor if you are taking any medications that might interact with some of the herbal ingredients or vitamins contained in energy drinks.
Samantha Scruggs is a registered dietitian who is passionate about nutrition, healthy living and exercise. She works in a clinic with dialysis patients. Scruggs earned a bachelor's degree in public health nutrition from the University of North Carolina.