Why Energy Drinks Should Carry A Health Warning

March 7, 2011

Kids love them, and office workers pop the can to raise their flagging energy levels but many of the popular energy drinks (particularly in the US) can contain high levels of unregulated ingredients which could pose a health risk – particularly to children, adolescents, and young adults.
The main problem is caffeine overdose and the review found that almost half of 5,448 such overdoses reported in 2007 involved people under age 19, according to University of Miami research.  Many energy drinks contain 70 to 80 mg of caffeine per 8-oz. serving — about three times the concentration in cola drinks and surveys suggest that up to half of the energy drinks on the market are consumed by adolescents and young adults.
Other ingredients the review identified that are common to energy drinks, included taurine, L-carnitine, ginseng, guarana and yohimbine. Every gram of guarana contains 40 to 80 mg of caffeine, as well as theobromine and theophylline. Interaction with other plant compounds has the potential to increase the half-life of guarana. The authors also found a potential for drug interactions with certain energy-drink ingredients, such as 5-hydroxy tryptophan, vinpocetine, yohimbine, and ginseng.
Energy drinks have been linked to serious adverse effects in young people, including seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, and mood and behavioural disorders – none of which concern the consumers it seems. Marketed in more than 140 countries, energy drinks are the fastest growing segment of the soft drinks market and it is children, adolescents and young adults (ages 19 to 25) who account for half of the energy-drink market.
Among countries that have collected data on adverse effects associated with energy drinks, Germany has maintained records since 2002 and documented effects that included liver damage, kidney failure, respiratory disorders, agitation, seizures, psychotic conditions, rhabdomyolysis, tachycardia and cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, heart failure, and death.  Ireland documented 17 incidents, including two deaths, between 1999 and 2005. New Zealand reported 20 energy drink-associated incidents, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jitteriness,” racing heart, and agitation.
Taken to give a ‘buzz’ these drinks – like most things – are fine in moderation, but the problem lies particularly with children with underlying health problems.  These include cardiovascular, renal, or liver disease, seizures, diabetes, mood and behavioural disorders, hyperthyroidism — or those who take certain medications.  Children with these conditions may be especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of high doses of caffeine and other ingredients found in energy drinks.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits caffeine content in soft drinks, which are categorized as food, but there is no such regulation of energy drinks, which are classified as dietary supplements.  The amount of research into them has been extremely limited – as should be their consumption, by children and adults with cardiac conditions as too much caffeine is good for neither group

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