We’re all well aware that Red Bull gives you “wings” but now we’re learning that the energy drink and others like it may also be giving you hepatitis! That’s right, in addition to providing “flight,” an excellent weapon for professional MMA fighters, and humanitarian aid, energy drinks are also being linked to liver failure, much like that experienced by someone who has overdosed.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) examined the case of a 50-year-old construction worker who ended up hospitalized following excessive energy drink consumption. The man reported abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, but chalked it up to the flu and only decided to go to the hospital after observing dark urine and a yellow tinge in his skin color.
After learning that the man did not smoke, use recreational drugs, or drink alcohol, doctors connected his symptoms with the 4-5 energy drinks that the man reported consuming on a daily basis over the course of three weeks. They consulted a previous case in which the over-consumption of energy drinks lead to liver damage and performed a series of tests, which revealed the patient had elevated liver enzymes indicating liver damage and hepatitis.
According to the BMJ report:
Physical examination revealed jaundice and right upper quadrant abdominal tenderness. Laboratory studies were remarkable for transaminitis and evidence of chronic hepatitis C infection. Ultrasound scan demonstrated an echogenic liver and diffuse gallbladder wall thickening. Liver biopsy showed severe acute hepatitis with bridging necrosis and marked cholestasis.
Which is all to say: Yikes. Doctors believe high levels of niacin in energy drinks caused the patient’s acute hepatitis with each bottle containing 40 milligrams (or two times the recommended daily value) of the vitamin. Keep in mind — this guy was drinking four or five every day. Eventually, they discovered that the patient had previously been infected with hepatitis C (transmitted through sex, blood, and shared needles) which may have increased his risk of further non-viral hepatitis. They encourage patients with acute hepatitis to consult physician before consuming energy drinks and other supplements with high concentrations of potentially damaging ingredients.