Everything in moderation is a mantra that often frequents our ears, and sometimes with very good reason. Here is a prime example: A British woman is reportedly losing her vision as a result of her Red Bull-chugging habits.
Now, we are not just talking about a scaremongering “Red Bull makes woman BLIND” case; the 26-year-old has told the media that she consumed a cringe-worthy 28 cans of the energy drink daily. In those seven liters of liquid are around 730 grams of sugar, 3,200 Calories and 2,200 milligrams of caffeine.
To put that into perspective, an average woman’s guideline daily allowance of Calories is 2,000, and for sugar it’s around 90 grams. Caffeine is a little more complicated, but even Red Bull’s website points to a literature review that suggests the general population shouldn’t consume more than 400 milligrams.
On top of all that, the woman, Lena Lupari, was eating even more Calories in the form of fast food or takeout. The excessive amount she was consuming over the years, of course, led to tremendous weight gain, and she now weighs 26 stone (364 pounds). Unsurprisingly, Lupari ended up in the hospital in June this year.
According to the MailOnline, who interviewed Lupari, she’d been suffering headaches and migraines for around five years, but rather than seeking medical attention, she popped painkillers to deal with the symptoms. But then, on June 18, her “vision went” and she couldn’t get out of bed, resulting in hospital admission and a six-day stay.
During this time, Lupari was diagnosed with a condition known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), sometimes called benign intracranial hypertension. This is a rare condition in which the pressure inside the skull is abnormally high, often resulting in loss of vision from swollen optic nerves or headaches. Although idiopathic means that the cause is unknown, it is most commonly reported in overweight or obese women in their twenties, although the link between excess body weight and the condition are hazy. That being said, Lupari’s doctors recommended that she lose at least seven stone (98 pounds) in order to stave off symptoms.
So it seems likely that the woman’s IIH, and hence her temporary loss of vision, are probably linked with her weight, so it’s unfair to just point the finger at Red Bull. We don’t know for exactly how long the woman was keeping up with her 28-can-a-day habit, and correlation does not imply causation. Furthermore, we also don’t know if she would have experienced the same situation had she been consuming the same amount of Calories and sugar through other products, and not necessarily just soft drinks either.
In spite of this, the MailOnline has pointed to a 2012 study that they covered, whereby a link was identified between caffeine consumption and exfoliation glaucoma. Those suffering this condition experience a build-up of fluid in the eye that can lead to vision loss through increased pressure on the optic nerve.
The large, long-term study found that drinking three or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily was associated with an increased risk of developing the condition. However, this doesn’t mean that caffeinated coffee is the definitive cause for this observed increased risk. As the NHS points out, the study required that participants self-report their consumption habits, which is not necessarily the most reliable data collection method. Furthermore, those with the highest risk for the condition had a family history of glaucoma, and the same relationship was not observed in other caffeinated products, including soda.
In sum: Drinks laden with sugar, calories and caffeine are not good for you in excess, regardless of brand or type. So while we shouldn’t blame Red Bull for what happened to this particular woman, cutting back on soda or equally unhealthy products is never going to be a bad thing.