What Caffeine and Energy Drinks Do To Your Liver – It’s Not All Bad News

What do energy drinks do to your liver?

Did you know drinking coffee helps your liver? But what about energy drinks? In this episode of the Caffeine at Midnight podcast, Caffeine Scientist GreenEyedGuide reviews the science behind what caffeine and energy drinks do to your liver.

Podcast Show Notes and Additional Graphics

what happens to your liver when you drink caffeine energy drinks

Have you seen these headlines about energy drinks hurting your liver?

You may have seen headlines just like this. But when you take a closer look at the science, it’s not all bad news. I’m Caffeine Scientist GreenEyedGuide, and I’m here to guide you through it.

Take another look at these first two headlines. They are stories about excessive consumption of energy drinks.

Science Behind Caffeine and the Liver

Your liver is really good at metabolizing caffeine. This is thanks to the cytochrome P450 oxidase enzyme system. Let’s call it “CYP” for short. Think of this CYP system like the LAX of your body.

For those who don’t know, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is a major hub. It serves more passenger airlines than any other airport in the US.

Thus, this CYP system in your liver does all the heavy lifting when it comes to metabolizing “xenobiotics” (chemicals that are foreign to the body) like caffeine.

It’s also why people react so differently when it comes to metabolizing caffeine. Your genes are like instructions for building this CYP system. Therefore, genetic variations in the CYP1A2 enzyme change how efficiently your body handles caffeine.

Furthermore, environmental factors can impact your caffeine metabolism and your liver, too. For example, smoking speeds up caffeine metabolism. Alcohol slows down caffeine metabolism.

These are all things to think about next time you hear a news story about caffeine and the liver.

caffeine energy drinks liver quick facts
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The 3 Most Important Things You Need To Know About Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Your Liver

Moderation is Key

As long as you stay under 400 mg of caffeine per day, you should not have to worry about caffeine hurting your liver. That goes for caffeine from any source: coffee, tea, energy drinks, or supplements.

What ELSE is in your drink?

The caffeine isn't the only think that could hurt your liver. Look at the whole picture, the "food matrix".
For example:
Did you know an excess of Vitamin B3 (niacin) can cause liver damage? Try to avoid drinks with more than 100% DV niacin. And ask questions if you aren't familiar with the other ingredients in your drink.

Coffee Helps Your Liver Enzymes

This is true for coffee, decaf coffee, and energy drinks which use coffee as a base.
"Coffee consumption is associated with improvement in liver enzymes, especially in individuals at risk for liver disease. Coffee intake more than 2 cups per day in patients with preexisting liver disease has been shown to be associated with lower incidence of fibrosis and cirrhosis, lower hepatocellular carcinoma rates, as well as decreased mortality." [DOI: 10.1016/j.jceh.2016.02.003]

This episode was requested by YouTube username Legendary 27huNdREd54.

Question about caffeine energy drinks liver from YouTube user


  1. The Safety of Ingested Caffeine. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00080.
  2. Acute Liver Failure Following One Year of Daily Consumption of a Sugar-Free Energy Drink. PMID:26157880.
  3. Coffee and Liver Disease. DOI:10.1016/j.jceh.2016.02.003.
  4. Caffeine Use in Sports, Pharmacokinetics in Man, and Cellular Mechanisms of Action. DOI:10.1080/1040-830491379245.
  5. Is It Time to Write a Prescription for Coffee? Coffee and Liver Disease? DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.015.
  6. Coffee, including caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013739

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