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Woman, 22, who consumed energy drinks for two weeks hospitalised with ‘acute’ liver injury

Niacin, which helps convert food into energy, is a common ingredient in most energy drinks. Despite being widely perceived as a natural additive, it has been linked with a 50 percent higher risk of liver injury in some studies. Two separate case reports offer some indication of the complications that may ensue from overconsuming the beverages.

report in 2011 described the case of a 22-year-old woman who presented to the hospital after drinking 10 cans of energy drinks daily for two weeks.

A series of tests showing epigastric tenderness led to a diagnosis of acute hepatitis, which describes inflammation of the liver.

The doctors reported: “The development of acute hepatitis in this patient was most likely due to the excessive ingestion of an energy drink, and we speculate that niacin was the culprit ingredient.”

Similar medical remarks were made in the case report of a 36-year-old man who presented to the hospital with one week of abdominal pain, jaundice and fatigue.

READ MORE: A daily tipple linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer in study

The patient consumed three “sugar-free energy drinks daily for the past year with binge alcohol use”, according to the dossier.

“His liver function progressively deteriorated” and eventually required transplantation, noted the authors.

Symptoms reported included fatigue, decreased appetite and a 10-pound weight loss in the year before being admitted to the hospital.

“[The patient] admitted to weekend binge alcohol drinking for the past 15 years, and drank 10 beers three hours prior to symptoms onset.

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“On physical exam, the patient was alert and coherent. He was jaundiced, had a single spider nevus on his back and had a benign abdomen without ascites.”

Despite regularly binging on alcohol, doctors suspected additives in energy drinks as the likely cause of the patient’s declining health.

Energy drinks contain many additives including caffeine, taurine, B vitamins like niacin and other ingredients.

While the components in energy drinks that account for liver injuries are not clear, niacin has often been found to have a role in the disease.

READ MORE: Oedema can signal most severe stage of fatty liver disease

In fact, various research papers suggest a link between niacin and liver toxicity, with some suggesting a 50 percent greater chance of liver toxicity when doses exceed 2,000 mg/day.

Mild-to-moderate elevations in aminotransferase have also been reported at higher doses of niacin, which is a marker of hepatitis cirrhosis and other liver diseases.

Certain formulations of niacin have been linked to “clinically apparent, acute liver injury, which can be severe as well as fatal”, reports the National Library of Medicine.

As one of the body’s most vital organs, the liver is in charge of processing nutrients, filtering the blood and fighting infections.

When it becomes inflamed or damaged by external pathogens, the function of the organ quickly becomes affected.

Poor lifestyle habits like excessive alcohol use and fatty dietary intake are accountable for a great number of liver injuries, as are herbal supplements.

Foods like coffee, tea, fruits and vegetables on the other hand are optimal for promoting liver health.

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