When Lena Lupari, a twenty-six year-old mother of three from Northern Ireland, started going blind, her doctors were quick to pinpoint the problem – a combination of being overweight and her diet, which consisted of 28 cans per day of the energy drink Red Bull.
“I’d been suffering from migraines and headaches for about five years,” Lupari said in an interview with the Daily Mail, “but I just ignored them and took painkillers… then my vision went and I couldn’t even lift my head off the bed and I ended up in hospital for six days.”(1)
Lupari was diagnosed with a condition known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, or IIH for short. It’s a neurological disorder caused by pressure around the brain, mostly found in patients suffering from obesity.
Lupari attributes her addiction to the energy drink to her hectic life at home with three kids, one of whom is disabled.
“I used to drink 28 cans of Red Bull in a day and I’d only have a meal at night but it would usually something fast-food, like a takeaway or a packet of pasta,” she said. “I’ve got three young children, one with special needs, and didn’t have time to make anything.”
Determined To Recover
Since being hospitalized, Ms. Lupari has given up Red Bull completely – and with it lost about 30 pounds. However, doctors say she needs to lose around 100 pounds in order to keep her symptoms at bay.
Lupari says she would like to see the National Health Services provide non-surgical alternatives for helping her to lose the weight and keep it off, “Something like a boot camp,” she said. “Losing the weight doesn’t mean it will go away forever but it means I won’t need surgery.”
IIH is a rare condition which causes abnormally high pressure inside the skull. The most common symptoms are drastic vision changes, due to swollen optic nerves, and severe throbbing headaches.
The Health Impact Of Red Bull
Because of the high caffeine content of Red Bull, patients with coronary heart disease, hypertension and high blood pressure are already advised to avoid the drink whenever possible. A 250 ml can of Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine.
Red Bull’s official website cautions consumers not to drink more than two cans of the beverage per day(2).
The inventor of the drink initially claimed when marketing it in 1987 that Red Bull could not only increase physical endurance and improve concentration, but help eliminate toxins from the body – proving that you can’t always trust things that are marketed as “healthy” to actually be good for you.
In a recent paper on the health risks of excessive caffeine consumption, researchers singled out Red Bull as one of the products that started the recent energy drink craze – a trend which has led to increased caffeine consumption among young people(3).
Some of the effects of excessive caffeine consumption the article warns about include hallucinations, panic attacks, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and muscle tremors.
While there’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee in the morning, excessive caffeine consumption poses a clear risk to your health – even if it won’t necessarily make you blind, as it did in the case of Lena Lupari.