Do energy drinks cause hepatitis? The connection between energy drinks and this serious liver disease became a major concern after an alarming case report was published by a group of researchers from the University of Florida College of Medicine. The report cited a case of acute hepatitis that was associated with the patient’s consumption of 4 to 5 energy drinks a day for three weeks, prior to being hospitalized. The 50-year-old patient showed symptoms of hepatitis C and was found to have underlying hepatitis infection. However, further tests showed that his liver damage was not caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV); rather, it was caused by toxins or drugs.
So what does this mean?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that results in the inflammation of the liver. Untreated cases can lead to scarring of the liver or cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. HCV is commonly spread through contact with infected body fluids or blood, as in the case of an infected pregnant woman passing the virus to the fetus. The virus is also spread through sharing contaminated needles, particularly among drug users. It is important to note that HCV is not spread through casual contact, food or water.
In this patient’s case, where do energy drinks fit into the scenario?
Further laboratory studies showed that the patient’s blood had high levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid – in fact it “exceeded quantifiable limits.” Notably, these vitamins are commonly found in energy drinks. When taken in large amounts, they can be toxic. And these vitamins – as do all chemicals and toxins that enter our body – typically accumulate in the liver. As such, for this patient, the excessive quantities of these energy drink ingredients caused a liver injury.
But how does this affect your energy drink intake?
A constructive point of this case report is that moderation is key. Drug-induced liver injury is a serious and common health problem in the U.S. Energy drinks, in particular, contain significant amounts of caffeine, niacin, and vitamins like B6. Harmless as these ‘vitamins’ may sound, consumers must keep within the recommended daily values of vitamins and nutrients to avoid the harmful risks of overdose. So before swearing off of energy drinks altogether, just be mindful that healthwise — ‘overdoing it’ can be just as harmful as not doing any thing at all. And with that as a guide in this new year, we remind you to make sure to take preventative actions against hepatitis: Screen. Vaccinate. Don’t Hesitate.
Learn more about drug-induced liver injury here
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