We admit it: in moments of desperation -- maybe after a night of poor rest, or after skipping our usual cup of morning coffee -- we have sometimes reached for an energy drink to fuel us through a long day. One can't hurt us, right?
Probably true -- but consuming four or five cans of energy drinks on a daily basis might just put you at risk for hepatitis, which presents enough of a risk that we're pretty much willing to put down energy drinks for life.
According to a British Medical Journal report, a 50-year-old construction worker presented with "malaise, anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, generalized jaundice, scleral icterus and dark urine." But here's the thing: the report claims that he was "previously healthy" and not on any prescription or over-the-counter medications.
He did, however, admit to drinking four to five energy drinks per day for three full weeks before presenting with his symptoms.
After undergoing a physical examination, it was revealed that the man had jaundice and felt tenderness in his right upper quadrant abdominals; additionally, laboratory studies showed transaminitis and "evidence of chronic hepatitis C infection."
Essentially, there is an ingredient in energy drinks called niacin, which is basically just vitamin B3; researchers now claim that niacin was actually to blame for the man's development of hepatitis, specifically because over-consumption of the vitamin has been linked to liver damage.
Did you know, for example, that Eater reports that a single, 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull actually contains 21.7 milligrams of niacin? That is 108 percent of the recommended daily value. Now imagine consuming five cans of those.
Luckily, the report notes that the patient was able to be treated with complete resolution of his symptoms. Of course, the study was careful to issue a warning regardless.
"The development of acute hepatitis in this patient was likely secondary to excessive energy drink consumption," its summary concludes.
"Energy drinks as well as other herbal/over-the-counter supplements should be considered by clinicians in the workup of patients with acute hepatitis, particularly once other aetiologies have been excluded."