Energy Drinks and Epilepsy – Should They Be Avoided?

20th September 2021

Many people enjoy energy drinks. In fact, somewhere between 30% and 70% of adults are classed as frequent consumers. Energy drinks can be ideal for providing a caffeine hit and some easy access energy when it’s most needed, especially for those who don’t drink coffee and there are a lot of people who simply enjoy the taste. 

However, there are also a lot of reports and research that suggest drinking energy drinks is negative for our overall health, and there is anecdotal evidence that it could potentially trigger seizures in people with epilepsy, and even in those that don’t. 

Can energy drinks cause seizures? 

There have been multiple reports of cases whereby seizures have occured after consuming energy drinks and there are a number of studies that seek to find the answer. To date, there is no conclusive evidence that energy drinks do cause seizures, although the anecdotal evidence is fairly widespread to suggest that it may, in fact, be a possibility. It’s worth noting that in some of these cases seizures have reportedly occurred in people who have no past experience of epilepsy. 

Energy drinks contain large amounts of sugar and caffeine, both of which are stimulants and are known to be a potential trigger for seizures. In fact, a report from the University of Texas Medical School noted that the average energy drink contains more caffeine than a strong cup of coffee. These ingredients, along with a range of others, such as taurine, guarana and amino acids can have a number of side effects on the body, including the brain, particularly when consumed in large quantities.  

On the other hand, many believe that the issue doesn’t arise from the increased energy, but rather the ‘crash’ that follows the energy high. We also know that there is a strong link between tiredness and epilepsy, which could shed further light on the reports. 

Therefore, although the evidence may not exist conclusively, it’s conceivable, and even highly likely, that energy drinks do have the ability to induce seizures in individuals with or without epilepsy. 

Other potential side effects of energy drinks

Not only have energy drinks been discussed as having the potential for inducing seizures, there are also a range of other negative side effects that are associated with the drinks which should be taken into account, including: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Restlessness

Should I drink energy drinks if I have epilepsy? 

In small quantities, an energy drink may be perfectly fine for a person with epilepsy to consume. However, we would caution anyone with epilepsy to think strongly about the use of energy drinks and the potential repercussions that can occur. It could be too great of a risk to simply gain some quick, unsustainable energy. More research is required before any strong conclusions can be offered. 

If you are going to consume energy drinks, we would warn you to make sure you monitor how much you are consuming and keep it down to a bare minimum. Understandably, if you do find yourself lacking in energy they may seem like a quick and relatively cheap way to get through the day. However, there are other, safer ways to increase your energy levels and your health in a much more consistent and sustainable way, including: 

  • Get more sleep 
  • Reduce stress in your life
  • Get more exercise 
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid alcohol (or cut down / limit consumption)
  • Nutritious diet 
  • Reduce sugar intake 
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated at all times 

Each of the above options will have a positive, long term impact on your energy levels and contrary to inducing seizures, could also have the capacity to reduce them. We would recommend that anybody with (or without) epilepsy try these things before turning to energy drinks. 

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