The Risk of Energy Drinks

Posted by Pharmacist on December 03, 2012

Energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and 5-Hour Energy have been getting a lot of attention lately. In October 2012 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disclosed it had reports of 18 deaths in which the consumption of energy drinks may have been a factor. And on November 30, 2012 Rep. Edward J. Markey urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate advertising claims made by the drink manufacturers.

Energy drinks seem innocent enough. Sure, they’re packed with sugar and caffeine, but so are soda and the coffee drinks people get at places like Starbucks. Many people use energy drinks as a quick pick-me-up on days when they didn’t get enough sleep or at times when they want to focus. The drinks are often marketed to kids and young adults and there’s no denying their popularity — the LA Times reports that the sale of energy drinks increased almost 17 percent in 2011.

In the United States the amount of caffeine allowed in soda and other beverages is regulated by the FDA. This isn’t the case for energy drinks because they often label themselves as dietary supplements. Caffeine levels are much higher than those in other soft drinks – as much as five times higher.  This can be dangerous for everyone, especially children. In fact, a 2011 review from the American Academy of Pediatrics said “Rigorous review and analysis of the literature reveal that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents.” While caffeine has positive attributes, in large doses it can cause dehydration, anxiety and even heart palpitations. And the high caloric count can raise blood pressure and glucose levels.
Worry over the effects of the high-caffeine content in energy drinks isn’t new; in 2011 a government report called the increase in consumption a rising health concern. And the statistics support that concern. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says hospital emergency-room visits connected to energy drink consumption increased from 1,128 in 2005 to 13,114 in 2009.

The drinks have even become an issue for US troops. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research performed a study that showed in 2010 nearly half of servicemembers drank at least one energy drink every day, with over 13 percent drinking three or more per day. According to the report, the high rates of consumption can have an adverse affect on sleep, which in turn can impact stress levels and illness; some users even reported falling asleep while in meetings or on duty.


So while they’re still on the market doing business as usual, it’s a smart idea to be wary of energy drinks and their claims, especially when it comes to children.

One Response to “The Risk of Energy Drinks”
  1. Jane says:

    I’ve used energy drinks and I have to say that while they are helpful at times it’s very important not to overdose in drinking them.

    Too much can lead to sleeping issues, increased heart rates, imbalanced blood/sugar levels and an in ability to focus on certain tasks for extended periods of time due to jittery nerves.

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