UT study finds energy drink consumption can have immediate negative health effects

Caroline Cummings

Reaching for an extra energy drink after a late night studying can have immediate negative effects, according to new UT research. 

A recent study conducted at McGovern Medical School at UT Health Science Center in Houston found drinking one energy drink is enough to contract blood vessels as soon as 90 minutes after consumption. Contraction of the blood vessels is related to health problems such as atherosclerosis, which can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attacks and strokes.

The study tested the blood vessel function of 44 healthy, non-smoking medical students in their 20s before they drank a 24 ounce can of energy drink. The study indicated a combination of the caffeine, sugar and other ingredients in energy drinks could change the lining of blood vessels and cause them to contract.

Keryn Pasch, a kinesiology and health education associate professor, said college students use energy drinks to study for tests, when they are getting an insufficient amount of sleep and to hide the flavor of alcohol in mixed drinks.

“Increased consumption of energy drinks is associated with alcohol use and in particularly problematic alcohol use behaviors such as binge drinking and heavy drinking,” Pasch said. 

Philosophy freshman Jack Vaughan said he uses energy drinks 2-3 times a week to help him wake up and retain focus. He said he drinks them in moderation to stay healthy.


“Obviously they aren’t good for you, but they’re about the same nutritional value as any soda,” Vaughan said. “I’m not sure why people are quick to judge them as being terrible for your health … It’s all about practicing temperance with the things we enjoy.”

Sports management sophomore Adam Gerrie, a student brand manager for Red Bull, said he drinks Red Bull to improve his drive and energy.

“As a brand, they created a lifestyle to buy into, not just a product,” said Gerrie. “By drinking a Red Bull you feel a part of something better.”

Pasch suggests students who feel dependent on energy drinks should sleep more and limit how many beverages they consume.

“I know that it is easier said than done, but getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night can really make a difference,” Pasch said. “Also, the timing of caffeine may be something that can be altered so that there is less of an impact on sleep, so try to avoid caffeine later in the evening.”