Tag Archives: Niacin Overload

The Dangers Of Niacin Overload

Woman holding energy drink

Every decade had its defining drug. The 50’s had alcohol and amphetamines, the 60’s had LSD, the 70’s were the peak of cannabis use, and the 80’s ushered in heroin. The 1990’s gave us ecstasy, while the 2000’s gave us cocaine. So what’s on the plate for the 2010’s? Red Bull anyone?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, an energy drink is, “a usually carbonate beverage that typically contains caffeine and other ingredients… intended to increase the drinker’s energy.”
Compared to the heavy hitters of the past, energy drinks may see like child’s play, but they can be pretty dangerous. Though usually villainized for their high caffeine content, energy drinks have also come under fire lately for another ingredient: niacin.

Risk of Hepatitis
You may have heard the recent story of a 50 yr. old constructions worker who entered the emergency room with abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite. His eyes and skin were yellow and his urine had turned a dark color. After being diagnosed with hepatitis C, a viral infection causing liver inflammation, baffled doctors looked for a cause in the man’s decidedly clean health record; one behavior began to stand out. The man drank four to five energy drinks per day in the weeks prior to his hospitalization.

The report stated the levels of serum folate, or folic acid, and vitamin B12, both of which are found in energy drinks, “exceeded quantifiable limits” in the patient and that his condition was “directly subsequent to excessive consumption of energy drinks and resolved on discontinuation of the products.”

Beyond Recommended Dosages
Although caffeine levels are often a subject of concern when examining energy drinks, the quantities of vitamins may not be taken into consideration. The patient’s energy drink contained 200% or 40 mgs of the recommended daily value go niacin. Other energy drinks contain large amounts of B6 and B12. Drinking more than one of these energy boosting drinks per day could bring levels of B-vitamins to over 1000 times the daily need. Although many people believe these ingredients to be harmless, an overdose of vitamins can be very serious.

Avoiding Niacin
It should be noted that of all the vitamins found in unusually high levels in energy drinks, only niacin is capable of liver damage. Niacin can cause an indicator of liver damage called transaminitis in as much as 20% of consumers who receive 500 mgs of niacin daily. However, the presence of all vitamins and nutrients in huge quantities present a risk for toxicity and harmful accumulation.

However, before you go pouring all your Red Bulls down the toilet, consider that although there has been one other report of the consumption of energy drinks linked to acute hepatitis, there is still no conclusive evidence linking the two. However, a recent report directs physicians to “inquire about energy intake in otherwise healthy adults who present with unexplained acute hepatitis.”

So take caution with your drug d’jour! You know what they say about too much of a good thing! Let us know what you think! Death cocktail or relatively harmless energy booster?