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Warning: Hidden dangers may lurk in energy drinks

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Sally McDonald, Clark.com

You may have seen the shocking photos of a man with an enormous hole in his skull circulating around the web. His wife claims that her husband had a massive brain hemorrhage from excessive energy drink consumption. While this is an extreme case, it’s nearly impossible to deny the severe health effects that energy drinks can cause.

The dangers of energy drinks

Energy drinks take caffeine to the extreme by adding sugars and stimulants like guarana and taurine. While most energy drink makers claim their products are safe because they contain the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, it’s the “energy blend” of stimulants and additives that can cause severe health risks.

In fact, a recent study discovered a significant increase in blood pressure after consuming an energy drink when compared to a regular caffeinated beverage.

Here’s a look at the ingredients in a few of the popular brands:

Caffeine is used daily by millions of people. But how much is too much? The Food and Drug Administration recommends a limit of 400 milligrams (about four or five cups of coffee) per day, and most experts agree that 600 milligrams (about four-seven cups of coffee) is too much.

Sugar is well-known for an instant boost and a quick crash. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams of sugar per day. One can of Red Bull has 26 grams of sugars — that’s almost an entire day’s worth with no real nutrition!

Guarana is a caffeinated plant typically found in Brazil. While it may be listed as an ingredient, you may not know exactly how much you’re getting in the drink.

Taurine is an amino acid that regulates water levels in the body. Taurine can be found naturally in meat and fish, but moderation is important. Not much is known about the effects of heavy or long-term use.

B vitamins are energy machines for our bodies. Vitamin B12 is an ingredient in Red Bull and is safe in moderation, although too much can cause high blood pressure and other side effects.

RELATED: Report: These 3 vitamin supplements are worth the money

Serving size is also key! Red Bull typically comes in an 8.4 ounce can which is one full serving. But other brands like Monster are 16 ounces — or two servings — so you double the caffeine and ingredients on the label if you drink the whole can yourself.

Dangers for adolescents

Remember that caffeine is a drug, and it can cause serious problems. It’s vital to understand the risk, especially for children and teenagers. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that kids should never consume energy drinks because the caffeine and stimulants are linked to a number of harmful effects on neurologic and cardiovascular systems. In some cases, too much caffeine can even lead to death.

RELATED: Dangers of energy drinks warrant a closer look from parents

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