Common energy drink questions

Energy drinks were created more than 25 years ago. They are available in more than 165 countries including every country of the European Union because health authorities across the world have concluded that the ingredients contained in energy drinks are safe to consume.

Common ingredients in energy drinks are caffeine, taurine and vitamins. Energy drinks contain about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of home-brewed filter coffee. In 2009, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published their scientific opinion on ingredients of energy drinks and concluded that these are of no concern. On May 27, 2015, EFSA additionally established safe intake levels for caffeine from all dietary sources, including energy drinks (scientific opinion on the safety of caffeine).

Energy drinks are classified as normal foodstuff and marketed accordingly.

Energy drinks and alcohol

Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages. Despite their mainly functional purpose, some consumers do mix non-alcoholic energy drinks with alcoholic beverages. This has happened for decades if not centuries where alcoholic beverages have been mixed with colas, tonic water, soda water, ginger ale and all kinds of fruit juices.

There is no scientific reason why energy drinks should not be mixed with alcohol as long as consumers keep in mind that the excessive and irresponsible consumption of alcohol can have adverse effects on the human body and behaviour and that this is due to the alcoholic drink, not the mixer, be it a cola, orange juice, tonic or an energy drink.

There is no indication that energy drinks have any specific effect (negative or positive) related to alcohol consumption. This was confirmed by the UK Governments Committee on Toxicity (2012), which concluded that “the current balance of evidence does not support a harmful toxicological or behavioural interaction between caffeine and alcohol”. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, 2015) also found that, based on the available scientific evidence, there is no harmful interaction between alcohol and caffeine from any dietary source, including energy drinks.

In order to play a proactive and responsible role in the debate about energy drinks and alcohol EDE’s Code of Practiceobliges its members to adhere to the following commitments related to the sales and marketing of energy drinks:

  • Energy drink labels will not promote the mixing with alcohol.
  • EDE members will not make any claims that the consumption of alcohol together with energy drinks counteracts the effects of alcohol.
  • EDE members do not sell any beverages which are a mixture of energy drinks with alcohol. We consider the denomination of such premixed alcoholic beverages as ‘energy drinks’ as misleading.

Are there any side effects?

Energy drinks are food products and are safe to consume. Some consumers may – due to their predisposition – react sensitively on ingredients contained in energy drinks, e.g. caffeine, sugar or vitamins. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and tend to react with headachedizzinessinsomnia or are restless. The ingredients contained in energy drinks are labelled on the can including the caffeine content so that consumers can make informed choices based on what they know is best for them.

Are energy drinks addictive?

No. Energy drinks are neither addictive nor do they contain any addictive substances. The ingredients of energy drinks are found in other foodstuffs and some ingredients occur naturally in the human body. This is also true for taurine, which is present in seafood and found in the human body. There is a consensus that caffeine, which is also a natural ingredient in foodstuffs such as coffee, tea or chocolate, is not addictive. Energy drinks contain about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Can you overdose energy drinks?

Typical energy drinks have a caffeine content of 32 mg per 100 ml. Energy drinks contain about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of home-brewed filter coffee.

In general, the consumption of energy drinks should conform to a person’s intake of caffeine. Many authorities around the world have looked at the effects of caffeine. Health Canada scientists conducted an extensive review of the scientific literature on caffeine (Nawrot et al., 2003). Based on this review, they concluded that the general population of healthy adults is not at risk for potential adverse effects from caffeine if they limit their consumption to 400 mg per day. This has been confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, 2015).

However, EFSA recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day. The rules for the labelling of caffeine-containing beverages are the same across the EU (Food Information to Consumers Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011) Beverages containing more than 150 mg/l must indicate the caffeine content and carry the advisory statement “High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women” followed by the caffeine content in brackets expressed in mg per 100 ml on the label.

Overdose or excessive consumption of any food and beverage is detrimental to health. Even water, when consumed in excess, is harmful. Nutrition experts agree that it is important to consume foods and beverages from many different sources and in moderation. Of course, this is also true for energy drinks, which can be part of a balanced and varied diet as well as a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, it is recommended to consume energy drinks in moderation.