Can Energy Drinks Cause Kidney Stones?

Energy drinks have no substantiated health benefits, and the large amounts of caffeine and sugar they contain may have adverse effects on your health. These drinks have been linked to serious side effects, particularly in children, teenagers and young adults with diabetes, behavioral disorders, cardiac abnormalities and seizures, according to an article published online in February 2011 in the journal "Pediatrics." Consuming high amounts of energy drinks may contribute to the development of kidney stones, even in children.

A display of energy drinks. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones do not have one single cause. Different factors and conditions contribute to the development of kidney stones. When the fluid, minerals and acids in your urine are out of balance, the amount of crystal-forming substances in the urine increases. These substances include calcium, uric acid and oxalate. The fluid in your urine cannot dilute the crystal substances, which stick together to form stones. There may also be a lack of the substances that prevent crystals from sticking together.

Calcium Oxalate

Calcium oxalate is a mineral component that forms the most common type of kidney stone. Energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea and soda contain oxalate. Nuts, spinach and chocolate also have oxalates. Drinking a lot of energy drinks, especially in combination with other drinks and foods that contain oxalates, increases your chances of developing kidney stones. You are particularly at risk if you also do not drink enough water or other fluids to help dilute oxalates and other crystal-forming substances in your urine.

Energy Drinks and Dehydration

Dehydration contributes to the formation of kidney stones, especially uric acid stones. This type of stone occurs in people who are dehydrated, have gout, eat high-protein diets or who are genetically predisposed. Energy drinks may contribute to dehydration. Most energy drinks contain 80 to 300 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce serving. Although small amounts of caffeine are not dehydrating, 500 milligrams or more can produce a diuretic effect. This causes you to urinate more frequently, making dehydration more likely. Even two servings of an energy drink may have this effect, depending on the caffeine content. If you also drink coffee, tea or soda or eat foods with chocolate that also contain caffeine, your risk of dehydration increases even more.

Children and Teens

Between 30 and 50 percent of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks, according to the "Pediatrics" article. At the same time, children as young as 5 years old now have kidney stones, which were formerly reserved mainly for the middle-aged. Gary Faerber, M.D. says in an article for "Science Daily" published in March 2009 that children's diets put them at risk for kidney stones. Dr. Faeber is a urologist at the University of Michigan Health System. He says that the sugar-filled beverages that children drink and their typically high-sodium diets are mainly to blame for kidney stones. Dr. Faerber advises that children do not consume soda, colas or other sugar-filled drinks. Energy drinks contain 35 grams of sugar per serving.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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