Category Archives: energy drinks

The latest evidence against energy drinks: significant effect on blood pressure

CansEnergy drinks are in the news again. New concerns about the health effects of these beverages come up just about every day. There are so many prices to pay for a small pick me up — and the people who are paying those prices aren’t simply adults, they’re kids too.

As Anna Svatikova, the leader author of a new study, said, “We know that energy drink consumption is widespread and rising among young people. Concerns about the health safety of energy drinks have been raised. We and others have previously shown that energy drinks increase blood pressure. Now we are seeing that for those not used to caffeine, the concern may be even greater. Consumers should use caution when using energy drinks because they may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, even among young people.”

This experiment is limited as it looked at 25 healthy individuals between the ages of 19 and 40. The experiment monitored their heart rates and blood pressure before drinking a standard energy drink (or placebo) and then again 30 minutes after consuming the drinks. As might have been expected, the increase in blood pressure of those who consumed energy drinks was significantly higher than the blood pressure rate of those people who drank the placebo.

Svatikova concludes, “Consumers should use caution when using energy drinks because they may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, even among young people.” is extremely serious about sharing energy drink news. We especially believe in alerting teenagers to the dangers involved in energy drink consumption. We hope our community does the same. There is nothing nutritionally beneficial about energy drinks and the dangers they pose make the pick me up they offer a useless perk. Talk to kids about energy drinks. Let them know that people have ended up in the emergency room and the morgue because of them. Please remember that even when teens don’t appear to be listening, adults do have influence over their actions. Let’s help keep kids away from energy drinks and let’s make sure that adults find other ways to stay energized.

Almost half of all energy drink ads featured on TV channels popular with teens reports often on energy drinks. We find these beverages especially concerning because of the countless instances where energy drinks have been linked to hospitalization and death. We’re particularly disturbed by the popularity of the drinks among the teenage population. We’ve heard claims from manufacturers time after time stating that their products aren’t meant for teenagers and that they do not target kids with their marketing campaigns. Hmmmm ….

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior has reported that 46% of energy drink advertisements broadcast on television are aired on channels featuring content and themes likely to appeal to teenagers.

Researchers from Dartmouth College, NH, arrived at their findings after examining a database of television advertisements broadcast from March 2012 to February 2013. During this period, across 139 network and cable channels, over 608 hours of energy drinks advertisements were aired.

“Although our results do not support the idea that manufacturers intentionally target adolescents with their advertising, ads for energy drinks were primarily aired on channels with themes likely to appeal to adolescents, and adolescents are likely exposed to energy drink advertising via television,” says lead researcher Jennifer A. Emond.

Energy drinks are beverages containing caffeine and commonly a mixture of other stimulants and energy-giving ingredients. Caffeine content can vary, with concentrations in popular brands ranging from 70 mg per 8 oz serving to 200 mg per 16 oz serving. These amounts are far higher than the average caffeine content of popular soft drinks, which range from 23 to 69 mg per 12 oz.

While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally recognize energy drinks as safe, some experts are concerned about the potential health risks that adolescents can face due to high caffeine intake. Certain adverse health effects are associated with consuming too much caffeine, such as anxiety, sleep disruption and serious cardiovascular events.

At present, the American Academy of Pediatrics advise against energy drink consumption among adolescents, and the American Medical Association registered their support for a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to adolescents alongside the US Senate Commerce Committee in 2013.

Television is highly-watched by adolescents in the US, and the authors of the study describe it as a highly relevant medium for advertising to reach the youth of the nation. Until now, however, little quantitative research has been carried out to investigate the prevalence of energy drink promotion on US television.

The primary target audience of each of the television channels was identified through analyzing audience demographic data from a cable advertising trade group. The researchers identified the 10 television channels that dedicated the most time to energy drink advertising and of these, six included adolescents in their primary target audience.

The six channels were MTV2, ESPN News, FUSE, MTV, ESPN-2 and Black Entertainment Television. MTV2 was identified as the top network and was found by the researchers to have aired 2,959 minutes of energy drink advertisements – around 8.1% of all airtime given to energy drink advertisements.

The proportion of MTV’2 base audience made up of 12-17-year-olds was also found to be 398% greater than that of the average network audience for US television.

“While policies related to energy drink marketing are debated, nutrition educators may wish to include elements of media literacy when advising adolescents and their families about the risks of energy drink consumption,” the authors suggest.

Although it cannot be proven that adolescents specifically viewed these advertisements, Nielsen data have previously indicated that adolescents view more energy drink advertisements than adults on many of the 10 channels identified in this study, including the top network MTV2.

While it can be argued that energy drink advertising appears so frequently on the channels mentioned because the products fit best with sports and risk-taking – popular themes on these channels – previous studies have suggested that energy drinks manufacturers specifically target an adolescent market by associating their products with these themes.

One step the authors suggest that parents can take to help reduce their children’s exposure to energy drink marketing is to try and limit the amount of time they spend watching television.

“Measures of increased television exposure among adolescents (television viewing time, number of televisions in the home, and the presence of a television in the bedroom) have been associated with heavier consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks,” state the authors.

In October last year, researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed that increasing consumption of energy drinks could pose a threat to public health. has some experience with the world of advertising and we’re pretty sure that TV stations that cater to teens are getting more energy drink advertising specifically BECAUSE they’re catering to teens. Demographics are the biggest factor in selecting TV stations for advertisers. The “Popular Themes” on MTV2 of sports and “risk-taking” are in themselves aimed at teens.

Energy drink manufacturers market to teenagers. They do it purposefully. If the teenaged consumer wasn’t important to energy drink sales, their commercials wouldn’t be airing on stations with a predominantly teen demographic.

Pinkwashing and 5 hour energy

2014-10-16_08.14.40Breast Cancer Awareness Month has come to an end and with it the myriad of brand partnerships in support of this important cause. As the years go on we become more an more aware of a concept that’s been labeled as “pinkwashing.” The term was coined to describe those products and brand affiliating themselves with breast cancer that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find.

Among the regular cast of product partnerships, 5-hour Energy’s affiliation with Living Beyond Breast Cancer certainly stands out. From now until the end of 2014, 5-hour Energy is donating 5 cents from every sale of White Pink Lemonade to Living Beyond Breast Cancer. finds this to be the oddest food/beverage partnership we’ve seen.

We have a product with questionable ingredients that have been linked to emergency room visits and even fatalities partnering for a cause that’s meant to increase awareness of a devastating disease and call attention to efforts to promote its early detection and prevention.  It’s not just that the ingredients in energy drinks are controversial — it’s that they’re actually harmful in much more immediate ways than other controversial items.

So while we’re happy that 5-hour Energy committed to a minimum donation of $200,000 to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, we still find it a strange marriage. There are plenty of food manufacturers committing to breast cancer through a number of different organizations. Yoplait has been a Susan G. Komen Foundation supporter for years, along with Dietz & Watson, Bimbo Bakeries and Eggland’s Best.

There was a lot of news during this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month regarding pinkwashing. Some of that news called into question the appropriateness of certain partnerships and asked whether or not organizations accepting donations should be more selective regarding the brands which which they choose to affiliate.

Don’t get us wrong — is happy to see corporations donate money to good causes. But, let’s not forget that when their efforts are put in front of the public with a pink ribbon on product packaging and press releases talking about donating a percentage of sales to the cause, it is marketing. So when Living Beyond Breast Cancer forges a partnership with 5-hour Energy, they’re encouraging consumers to purchase a product that can actually hurt them.

We personally gravitate towards partnerships that make more sense for everyone involved — including the consumers who are the targets of any kind of cause marketing.

New research recognizes the danger energy drinks may pose to public health knows there are so many things for parents to worry about when it comes to their teenagers. While we’re not happy to have added to their list of concerns, we’ve been consistently reporting on research and news surrounding energy drinks. These drinks have been linked to thousands of emergency room visits and fatalities among adults and young people alike. Unfortunately, energy drinks appear to be most appealing to teenagers and they’re consuming them in unhealthy quantities all over the world. Today we’ve learned that these dangers are being recognized.

Increased consumption of energy drinks may pose danger to public health, especially among young people, warns a team of researchers from the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe in the open-access journal Frontiers in Public Health.

Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, vitamins, and other ingredients for example, taurine, ginseng, and guarana. They are typically marketed as boosting energy and increasing physical and mental performance.

João Breda, from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and colleagues reviewed the literature on the health risks, consequences and policies related to energy drink consumption.

“From a review of the literature, it would appear that concerns in the scientific community and among the public regarding the potential adverse health effects of the increased consumption of energy drinks are broadly valid,” write the authors.

Part of the risks of energy drinks are due to their high levels of caffeine. Energy drinks can be drunk quickly, unlike hot coffee, and as a result they are more likely to cause caffeine intoxication.

Studies included in the review suggest that caffeine intoxication can lead to heart palpitations, hypertension, nausea and vomiting, convulsions, psychosis, and in rare cases, death. In the USA, Sweden, and Australia, several cases have been reported where people have died of heart failure or were hospitalized with seizures, from excess consumption of energy drinks.

Research has shown that adolescents who often take energy drinks are also more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as sensation seeking, substance abuse, and binge drinking.

Over 70% of young adults (aged 18 to 29 years) who drink energy drinks mix them with alcohol, according to an EFSA study. Numerous studies have shown that this practice is more risky than drinking alcohol only, possibly because these drinks make it harder for people to notice when they are getting drunk.

According to the National Poison Data System in the United States, between 2010 and 2011, 4854 calls to poison information centers were made about energy drinks. Almost 40% involved alcohol mixed with energy drinks. A similar study in Australia demonstrated a growth in the number of calls about energy drinks.

Energy drinks can be sold in all EU countries, but some countries have introduced regulations, including setting rules for sales to children. Hungary introduced a public health tax that includes energy drinks in 2012. In Sweden, sales of some types of energy drinks are restricted to pharmacies and sales to children are banned.

“As energy drink sales are rarely regulated by age, unlike alcohol and tobacco, and there is a proven potential negative effect on children, there is the potential for a significant public health problem in the future,” the authors conclude.

They make the following suggestions to minimize the potential for harm from energy drinks:

- Establishing an upper limit for the amount of caffeine allowed in a single serving of any drink in line with available scientific evidence;
- Regulations to enforce restriction of labeling and sales of energy drinks to children and adolescents;
- Enforcing standards for responsible marketing to young people by the energy drink industry;
- Training health care practitioners to be aware of the risks and symptoms of energy drinks consumption;
- Patients with a history of diet problems and substance abuse, both alone and combined with alcohol, should be screened for the heavy consumption of energy drinks;
- Educating the public about the risks of mixing alcohol with energy drinks consumption;
- Further research on the potential adverse effects of energy drinks, particularly on young people.

We’re grateful for many of the statements released from this report. First among them would have to be the acknowledgement that health concerns surrounding energy drinks are valid. Unfortunately, here in the U.S., there’s been little — if any — movement by the FDA to restrict and reclassify energy drinks from nutritional supplements to beverages, or to regulate their sale among young people. Every instance of a link between death and energy drinks is accompanied by a disclaimer that no cause and effect had been found. And the consistent marketing of energy drinks by manufacturers in manners that are attractive to teens has not changed. Even the packaging designs employed are obviously targeting a younger population. hopes that this European report sends a loud message across the globe and is thoroughly digested here in the states. These are significant acknowledgements that need to be taken seriously.

New study links energy drinks to caffeine syndrome and heart problems

Heart attackAfter years of hearing about the possible relationship between energy drinks and emergency room visits and even deaths, is excited to share this important information. Finally there’s been a study conducted that takes a good look at the effects of energy drinks.

Energy drinks can cause heart problems according to research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2014 by Professor Milou-Daniel Drici from France.

During the two year study period, 257 cases of adverse effects related to energy drinks were reported, of which 212 provided sufficient information for food and drug safety evaluation. They found that 95 of the reported adverse events had cardiovascular symptoms, 74 psychiatric, and 57 neurological, sometimes overlapping. Cardiac arrests and sudden or unexplained deaths occurred at least in 8 cases, while 46 people had heart rhythm disorders, 13 had angina and 3 had hypertension.

Caffeine syndrome was the most common problem, occurring in 60 people. It is characterized by a fast heart rate (called tachycardia), tremor, anxiety and headache. The study analyzed adverse events reported between 1 January 2009 and 30 November 2012. Some 15 specialists including cardiologists, psychiatrists, neurologists and physiologists contributed to the investigation and results were compared to published data in the scientific literature.

The researchers found that consumption of the 103 energy drinks in France increased by 30% between 2009 and 2011 up to over 30 million liters. The leading brand made up 40% of energy drinks consumed. Two-thirds of drinks were consumed away from home.

Professor Drici said, “So-called ‘energy drinks’ are popular in dance clubs and during physical exercise, with people sometimes consuming a number of drinks one after the other. This situation can lead to a number of adverse conditions including angina, cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and even sudden death.”

Around 96% of these drinks contain caffeine, with a typical 0.25 litre can holding 2 espressos worth of caffeine. Caffeine is one of the most potent agonists of the ryanodine receptors and leads to a massive release of calcium within cardiac cells. This can cause arrhythmias, but also has effects on the heart’s abilities to contract and to use oxygen. In addition, 52% of drinks contain taurine, 33% have glucuronolactone and two-thirds contain vitamins.

“In 2008 energy drinks were granted marketing authorization in France. In 2009 this was accompanied by a national nutritional surveillance scheme which required national health agencies and regional centers to send information on spontaneously reported adverse events to the A.N.S.E.S, the French agency for food safety.”

Rare but severe adverse events were also associated with these drinks, such as sudden or unexplained death, arrhythmia and heart attack (myocardial infarction). Their literature search confirmed that these conditions can be related to consumption of energy drinks.

Drici added,”Patients with cardiac conditions including catecholaminergic arrhythmias, long QT syndrome and angina should be aware of the potential danger of a large intake of caffeine, which is a stimulant that can exacerbate their condition with possibly fatal consequences.

“The general public need to know that so-called ‘energy drinks’ have absolutely no place during or after physical exercise, as compared with other drinks designed for that purpose. When used in long alcoholic cocktails, the caffeine in ‘energy drinks’ enables young people in dance clubs or elsewhere to overcome the unwanted effects of alcohol, leading to an even greater intake of caffeine.

“Patients rarely mention consumption of energy drinks to their doctors unless they are asked. Doctors should warn patients with cardiac conditions about the potential dangers of these drinks and ask young people in particular whether they consume such drinks on a regular basis or through binge drinking.”

Energy drinks are too popular. They’re too popular among teens, young adults and adults. And regardless of whether or not any direct links have been found between the enormous increase of emergency room visits and deaths that have involved energy drink consumption, these drinks are dangerous. This new research certainly reflects that and is just the beginning of what we’re certain will be many new revelations regarding the importance of avoiding energy drinks.

FDA petitioned to order warnings on energy drink labels

Energy DrinksJust last week we posted about the untimely death of a 16 year old girl that has been linked to energy drinks. consistently posts about reports regarding the dangers of these drinks that remain unregulated and far too popular among the teenage population. The problems aren’t small and the needs are big. There’s far too little education regarding energy drinks among the population at large. Too much caffeine, too many other ingredients with stimulant properties and too much marketing to teens … we have a problem and regulation seems to be slow in coming.

A consumer advocacy group on Wednesday asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to add a safety warning on energy drinks because the caffeine-charged beverages have been linked to 17 deaths since October 2012.

No study has proven that energy drinks directly caused these deaths, but 34 people died in the United States in the last decade after drinking 5-Hour Energy, Monster or Rockstar beverages, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

More than 50 people also were hospitalized for high blood pressure, convulsions and heart attacks after consuming energy drinks. The drinks, which are especially popular with teens, typically contain guarana, taurine and caffeine.

“I don’t think anybody knows what (these chemicals in energy drinks) do,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, which calculated the numbers using data it obtained from the FDA. “It’s not clear what their risks are.”

The FDA said it has been studying the drinks for several years and is evaluating the deaths. “This does not necessarily mean that the energy drink caused the death,” an FDA spokesperson said. “Frequently there are other complicating factors, such as existing disease or medications the person may have been taking.”

Spokespeople for Monster Beverage Corp, Rockstar Energy Drink and 5-Hour Energy were not immediately available for comment.

“Energy drinks are safe. They meet all the standards required by the federal regulators,” said Christopher Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association.

CSPI also asked the FDA to lower the legally allotted amount of caffeine in energy drinks to 71 milligrams per 12 ounces — the amount permissible in colas.

In 2005, the group urged the FDA to introduce labels to sugar-rich drinks warning consumers of obesity. Two years prior, CSPI succeeded in a 10-year campaign to list data on trans fats on all Nutrition Facts labels.

If you’ve ever walked into a convenience store between the hours of 2:30 and 3:30 in the afternoon, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a flood of teens. That’s certainly not a bad thing. Teens are hungry after school and they have a new freedom they didn’t have before they were in high school. Unfortunately, if you’ve seen that flood of teenagers in the store, you’ve probably also noticed how many cans of energy drinks are being purchased. The concerns are serious and very real. We can’t repeat it enough. Talk to your teenagers. Be careful. Keep your kids safe.

Energy drinks … the news gets worse

Energy DrinksEnergy drinks have consistently been in the news over the past few years. They’re dangerous. And most aren’t regulated the way they should be because they’ve managed to fall into the “special” category of nutritional supplements. That categorization has helped manufacturers avoid conforming to the maximum caffeine content allowed in sodas and other beverages (71 mg. per 12 ou.). Energy drinks contain other stimulants in addition to caffeine. Ingredients like guarana seed extract and taurine are common in energy drinks and have stimulant properties. Emergency room visits that are linked to energy drinks are rampant. Deaths have been linked to the drinks, but no direct cause and effect has ever been established. What’s worse is that kids (especially teens) are consuming too many energy drinks far too often.

While we hate to be the bearer of more bad news on the subject, the report that follows deserves your attention.

A grieving Arizona mother is claiming that energy drinks were a major factor in the shocking death of her 16-year-old daughter.

Lanna Hamann was on vacation in Rocky Point, Mexico when her mother, Kris Hamann, received a call saying her daughter had died from a heart attack. Lanna was travelling with friends, who told Kris that the teen had been drinking energy drinks all day, rather than keeping hydrated with water.

On Saturday June 14, Lanna complained to the father of one of her friends that she was not feeling well, after a day drinking the energy drinks at the beach. Soon after, she suffered a heart attack and died.

In a tearful interview, Kris described the star softball athlete as having a “beautiful smile” and an “outgoing personality.”

“Obviously, this is something that could have happened anywhere, whether she was in Mexico or whether she was here in Arizona playing softball,” Kris said. “(Parents should) make sure they’re watching their kids. (Watch) what they’re drinking and (make sure) they’re drinking water instead of an energy drink.”

Consuming large quantities of energy drinks can become dangerous.

“Blood pressure is going to rise. Heart rate is going to rise. Your muscles are going to start to contract,” said registered dietitian Abby Nevins. “So if you’re taking a bunch of 5 hour energies throughout the day, not hydrating with water, there is going to be a problem at the end of the day for sure.”

Nevins recommended a cup of coffee for consumers looking for that extra buzz, because coffee has more natural ingredients.

In the past few years, the Food and Drug Administration has received five different reports of people whose deaths have been at least partially blamed on energy drinks.

10 common side effects of excessive energy drink consumption, including heart palpitations, chest pain and respiratory distress. Studies have also found links between energy drink consumption and arrhythmia and high blood pressure. One recent study showed serious increases in heart contraction rates within an hour of drinking an energy beverage. wants to express our deep sadness regarding this tragic situation. In addition, we want to caution those whose immediate reaction might be that consuming energy drinks without hydrating wasn’t intelligent on the part of a 16-year-old girl. There are plenty of less-than-intelligent decisions people of all ages make every day of the week. Most don’t result in a heart attack. The problem lies less with the teenager than with readily available, unregulated products that pose an extreme danger to our kids.

Whether or not they let us know it, kids actually do listen to adults. While none of us wanted another item to add to the already long list of things about which we need to caution our teens, we certainly have it. Talk to them about energy drinks and E.R. visits and deaths. Their lives are far too important to put in danger for a currently cool, quick pick-me-up. They really can live without it.

Teens consuming sports drinks and energy drinks more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors

Sports and Energy Drinks linked to unhealthy behaviors in has no doubt that, by now, most parents are fully engaged in dissuading their teens from the consumption of energy drinks. There’s been so much news about emergency room visits and deaths linked to these beverages. In addition, most parents of teens are aware that teenagers are particularly drawn to them. Just walking into your local convenience store after school hours will give you a clear picture of how true that statement actually is. And while sports drinks aren’t in the news for possible links to hospital visits and deaths, they’re certainly a subject of controversy. Both product categories contain too much sugar, bad ingredients, caffeine and possible stimulants. Both are nutritionally vacant. And both are unnecessary as part of any healthy diet.

Now a new study reveals that the consumption of these beverages may, in fact, be linked to other unhealthy behaviors in teenagers. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Duke University in Durham, NC, have found an association between weekly consumption of sports and energy drinks and higher consumption of other sugary drinks, cigarette smoking and use of screen media.

The high sugar, calorie and caffeine content of sports and energy drinks is an area of concern for health care professionals and these drinks have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. National data have shown that although there has been a fall in consumption of soft drinks and fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks have tripled in consumption among adolescents.

The researchers behind the new study – which is published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior – gathered data from 2,793 adolescents across 20 public middle and high schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area during the 2009-10 school year.
The students reported data on their height, weight, how often they drink sports and energy drinks, how often they eat breakfast, how much physical activity they engage in, how much time they spend playing video games and watching TV, and whether or not they smoke.

Despite consumption of sports drinks being linked to higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, overall, the researchers found that consumption of sports and energy drinks contributes to a growing cluster of unhealthy behaviors among adolescents.

The study finds a link between smoking, high consumption of other sugary drinks, and prolonged time watching TV or playing video games with weekly sports and energy drinks consumption.

Lead author Nicole Larson, PhD, from the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, explains:

“Among boys, weekly sports drink consumption was significantly associated with higher TV viewing; boys who regularly consumed sports drinks spent about 1 additional hour per week watching TV, compared with boys who consumed sports drinks less than once per week.

Boys who consumed energy drinks at least weekly spent approximately 4 additional hours per week playing video games, compared with those who consumed energy drinks less than once per week.”

Dr. Larson and her team say that future research and interventions should do more to promote healthy hydration habits in adolescents and target the clustering of behaviors that present health risks to youth.

The position on these drinks from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that sports drinks should only be consumed by adolescents after vigorous and prolonged physical activity.

The AAP asserts that energy drinks, meanwhile, should not be consumed as they offer no health benefits and increase risks for overstimulation of the nervous system.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that around 73% of children consume caffeine on a daily basis. The CDC also reported that 20% of teenagers who consume energy drinks believe them to be safe.

A recent study from researchers at Iowa State University suggested that the drinks’ labeling may be to blame for the misperception of energy drinks as not being harmful. Current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines do not require caffeine and other stimulants to be listed in product labeling.

Also, although the FDA says that up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is not associated with adverse effects in adults, the administration has not issued any caffeine recommendations for children and adolescents.

We’re all aware that it’s harder to set rules for teenagers regarding food and beverage consumption. As our kids grow, they spend less time in the home. With after school activities, friends, sports and parties, teens are under the watchful eyes of their parents and caregivers less than they were when they were younger. Of course, we want that for them. A growing sense of independence is important for their development. Ultimately, we can’t forbid sports or energy drinks from them. What we can do, however, is engage them in honest conversation about the effects of these beverages. Studies have shown, that while they may not acknowledge it, the words of parents and caregivers have more influence over teen behaviors than many believe. These are important conversations. In addition to helping keep kids away from readily available beverages that can hurt their health, conversations like these can also turn their attention towards the importance of understanding what’s actually in the foods and beverages they choose to consume. And that can help them make better choices nutritionally for the rest of their lives.

Is there a connection between energy drink consumption and drug and alcohol use for teens?

197738_10150134064788407_1313366_n copy.jpgThere have been very disturbing reports about energy drink consumption for more than a few years now. has blogged about the concerns we should all have regarding the ingredients and the marketing of these controversial products. Hospitalizations and deaths have been linked to these beverages, and marketing efforts from several brands have targeted teens.

With the appeal of increased energy, better athletic performance and better focus, it’s easy to see why energy drinks have become incredibly popular for teenagers. Sadly, because the drinks are sold everywhere and aren’t regulated, many parents aren’t aware that they may not be as harmless as they appear. And we’re all aware that no brand has actually been implicated in any hospitalization or death. There have been lawsuits and news about the possible connection (not specific cause) of a particular energy drink with a tragic situation.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, it was shown that consuming energy drinks was strongly and positively associated with alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use in the preceding 30 days by adolescents. The observed associations between energy drinks and substance use were significantly stronger than those between regular or diet soft drinks and substance use.

The report suggests that personality traits that make a young person more likely to consume an energy drink—such as being a risk taker—may increase the chances that he or she will try addictive substances.

Researcher Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath and colleagues at the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan studied U.S. secondary school students in 2010 and 2011, looking at energy and soft-drink consumption and its associations with substance abuse. As part of the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, surveys were administered to students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.

Approximately 30 percent of student respondents reported consuming energy drinks or shots. The study also found that 8th graders reported a significantly higher frequency of consuming energy drinks than 10th or 12th grade students, and that the consumption frequency was significantly higher for adolescent boys than for adolescent girls. Consumption of both soda and energy drinks was highest among adolescents in families with low average parental education as well as in single-parent households.

Cautioning that this study does not establish causation between the behaviors, the researchers recommend education for parents and prevention efforts among young people. This includes information on the masking effects that the caffeine in energy drinks can have on alcohol- and other substance-related impairments, and recognition that some groups may be particularly likely to consume energy drinks and to be substance users.

Energy drinks generally contain extra-large doses of caffeine and/or other legal stimulants. An energy drink may contain between 75 milligrams to more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving—compared with the 34 milligrams in a Coke. Some energy drinks list additives such as guarana, which can contain about four times the amount of caffeine that coffee beans have; however, many consumers don’t recognize this ingredient as a source of caffeine.

Commenting on the study’s findings, Janet P. Engle, PharmD, FAPhA, head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago (who was not involved in the study), advised, “Everyone wants the magic bullet for getting energized and staying awake. However, energy drinks are not the best answer. There is a lack of research and regulation associated with energy drinks, and they may cause dangerous health consequences in users.”

While there are no official recommendations for caffeine intake for adolescents, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that adolescents should not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine a day. The idea that different energy drink products contain different amounts of caffeine and that various ingredients in those energy drinks may have stimulant effects themselves, we can easily see how teens consuming these drinks are ingesting far too much of the substance. That’s scary.

So while we wait for the FDA to investigate the drinks further and consider regulations, it’s important for adults to take note of the new research regarding alcohol and drug use as it may relate to energy drink consumption. It’s a good idea to be add energy drinks — and caffeine consumption — to the list of things we need to be vigilant about regarding our teenagers.

The great debate : Caffeine … Energy drinks. What’s safe? has posted often on our blog about the potential dangers of energy drinks. The information is certainly out there. Between 2007 and 2011, emergency room visits attributed to the consumption of energy drinks doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 in just four years. And most of those visits involved teenagers and young adults. But it isn’t just energy drinks that contain questionable amounts of caffeine. It was pretty recently that a major manufacturer halted the development of caffeinated chewing gum. And let’s not forget about caffeine pills that aren’t marketed to kids.

Christian Brenner was trending on the internet today. He’s an adult who claims he absolutely had caffeine poisoning. He swallowed five Magnum 357 caffeine pills and then drove down an Ohio freeway. Just minutes later he said he started to vibrate – and so did the cars in his rear view mirror. He was smart and pulled over to walk around and try to calm things down.

We hear so many conflicting reports on caffeine. So what’s the deal? Is caffeine safe? How much is too much? Should we be avoiding it completely?

Experts say that, in fact, you can overdose on caffeine … especially if you aren’t paying attention to how much you’re consuming.

“Safe doses of caffeine are usually quoted at around 200 to 300 milligrams, or two to four cups of coffee per day,” says Dr. David Seres, associate professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University.

We’re sure that we’ve all seen people consume more coffee than that in a single day. Especially these days, when a typical 8 ounce cup is considered small, it’s much easier than it used to be to ingest more caffeine than what’s quoted as safe.

But what about the studies that have linked caffeine to actual health benefits? Some research has associated caffeine with protection from Parkinson’s disease; others have noted that it may reduce risk for some types of cancer.

We can take advantage of those potential benefits, while keeping our consumption to the moderate levels advised by experts. Christian Brenner may have been unaware that those five caffeine pills he took contained 200 mg of caffeine each. That’s 1,000 mg. at one time. And that is just too much.

Energy drinks also pose the question “How much is too much?” A regular size can of Red Bull will usually contain about 80 mg. of caffeine. But there are 16 ounce cans of some brands out there. The larger can of Monster can contain up to 240 mg. That’s a bit less than a 16 ou. cup of coffee, which contains about 300 mg. There’s really a big difference here though. It would be unusual for a coffee drinker to down back to back 16 ounce coffees, while it’s become fairly common (especially for younger people) to consume two or three larger-sized energy drinks before a workout or a practice or a game thinking that the drinks are going to help their performance.

Barbara Crouch, executive director at the Utah Poison Control Center, comments, “When you pound down more than one energy drink verses sipping a cup of coffee, you’re not metabolizing it the same way.” She notes that adding factors like size, age, sex, drug interactions, hydration levels and the amount of food in the stomach can mean different outcomes for different people when on a caffeine binge.

“Yes, there is absolutely such a thing as caffeine poisoning, and the dose essentially makes the poison,” she says.

But Crouch has a bigger bone to pick with the makers of energy drinks: She says that many of them aren’t being fully forthcoming about ingredients. “Natural” additives — such as guarana, taurine and so-called “Siberian ginseng” — haven’t been fully tested. These additives may contain additional caffeine and some of the herbs can have stimulatory effects. They’ve never been tested for safety of interactions with prescription drugs and other substances.

But James Coughlin, a food, nutritional, chemical and toxicology safety expert in Los Angeles who consults for the American Beverage Association (the industry group that represents energy drink companies), disputes that.

“The caffeine contained in the guarana of an energy drink is only around one milligram, versus the 80 milligrams of synthetic caffeine added by a beverage company such as Red Bull,” he says. “The lethal dose of caffeine is 10 to 20 grams of pure powder caffeine, so if you were going to try and kill yourself with caffeine, you’d probably drown in the liquid first if you did it with coffee — and even more so with an energy drink.”

There is a very real debate occurring around energy drinks and the overall safety of caffeinated products. But regardless of that debate, the increase in energy drink-related ER visits is very real and can’t be ignored.

And while we’re all happy that the FDA is taking a new look at energy drinks, caffeinated foods and how and to whom these products are marketed, agrees with the concept that not everyone is always aware of how much caffeine they really may be consuming.

Barbara Crouch cautions that people should monitor caffeine intake from all sources. “So you have that cup of coffee, but lo and behold you decide to get an extra-dark bar of chocolate,” she says. “Or you drink a soda. Or maybe you do take an allergy pill or a dietary supplement.” Sometimes people miss the fine print on labels about stimulant properties in all these products. We should be paying attention to our consumption of caffeine the way we pay attention to our consumption of other ingredients in our food supply.