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Energy Drinks - Caffeine Overload Should Be Labeled Says Report

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:14 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Caffeine, Insomnia, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Heart Problems, Defective Drugs, Teenagers

Energy drinks should be labeled and carry a warning about excessive caffeine.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ energy drinks in Canada/ author: Grendelkahn

 

Energy drinks  “Give You Wings” and “Unleash the Beast.”

Translation – a truckload of caffeine.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University took a close look at some of the popular beverages and found some carry so much caffeine that they should carry a warning label.  

Some drinks have up to 14 times the caffeine of a can of soda, or seven cups of strong coffee.  

Excessive caffeine causes difficulty sleeping, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, depression and tremors among other maladies.

In rare cases, an overdose of caffeine can lead to death, especially if a person has an existing erratic heartbeat or arrhythmia.

Writing in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Dr. Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience says “The caffeine content of energy drinks varies, yet the amounts are often unlabelled and few include warnings about potential health risks.”

Energy drinks carry anywhere from 50 to 505 milligrams of caffeine, but the drinks contents are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which put them in the category of dietary supplement. There is no requirement to limit or disclose the caffeine content.

By comparison, soft drinks usually have 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce can.  

Dr. Griffiths has been studying caffeine for more than 20 years and in this article compiles studies, reports and surveys on caffeine intake. He also looks at chemical dependency and caffeine from numerous sources, including adverse reactions reported to U.S. poison control centers.

"I'm not concerned about someone whose caffeinated beverage of choice is Red Bull - they really are no different than a coffee drinker at that point," he said. "But it's the sporadic use to people who are not tolerant and who are naive and vulnerable in other ways that make it problematic," he says to the Baltimore Sun.

The drinks are actively marketed to teens and young adults, impressionable groups that may not be aware of the dangers says Dr. Griffiths who believes the drinks must be labeled so people can be informed about what they are consuming and the risk involved.  

Top sellers include Red Bull and Monster Energy, which account for 95 percent of energy drink sales- part of a $5.4 billion industry.

The lax regulation has allowed the industry to become a marketing machine targeting young males, and with names like Amp Energy, Rock Star, and No Fear.

The beverages sell a high-energy lifestyle. Even Red Bull claims it can “improve vigilance” and the company sponsors motocross and extreme sports as part of its image.  

"It's unfortunate that the authors of this article would attempt to lump all energy drinks together in a rhetorical attack when the facts of their review clearly distinguish the mainstream responsible players from novelty companies seeking attention and increased sales based solely on sensationalistic names and extreme caffeine content," Craig Stevens, a spokesman with the American Beverage Association, said in a statement. 

He points out that an 8.3 ounce can of Red Bull has 80 milligrams of caffeine. However there is no way to verify that claim since the caffeine content does not appear on the can. 

Forbes talked to Dr. Griffiths who likens energy drinks to one more positive message about taking drugs:  “The naivety of youth can make you think [if] one is good, two or three must be better. That's how kids throw themselves into overdose.

“The other piece is that some of these products are being marketed with direct appeals to illicit drug culture. One needs to wonder if it serves as [a] gateway function to other kinds of drug use. One of the most interesting finding we reviewed showed, in college students, that energy-drink consumption predicted subsequent non-medical use of prescription stimulants, like Ritalin. If you've already bought into the concept of performance enhancers, then it's easy to cross over what seems like a subtle line. But it's not subtle. It's going from legal to illegal.

The other [piece] is the message that drugs are great to use for performance and social enhancement. In sports, we're doing everything we can to give the opposite message.”  #


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