Tag Archives: Dangers of 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. FoodFacts.com 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.

FoodFacts.com 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.


The great debate : Caffeine … Energy drinks. What’s safe?

FoodFacts.com 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, FoodFacts.com 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.