Thursday, November 1, 2012

Frightful Energy Drinks

It’s been a nightmarishly rough ride for energy drinks lately—and with good reason.  In the past several days, one brand of energy drinks has been linked by the FDA to five deaths and one heart attack.  Here’s the horror story.

While the makers of this energy drink say that their drink “has always been safe,” this has become a huge point of contention lately—especially as it concerns children—since the makers of this and other energy drinks market their products heavily to kids.

It’s a booming market, too. Hundreds of various brands are being marketed, and according to Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2009, caffeine content ranges from about 50mg to an alarming 505mg per can or bottle. That’s way too high.

Unfortunately, marketing these “fluid nightmares” to our kids via sports heroes and other “superstars” is working. A report published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2011 says that energy drinks are consumed by 30 to 50 percent of adolescents and young adults. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) tells how these products are consistently being misused and poorly consumed by a majority of young athletes as well.

Young consumers –and even many adult consumers—don’t understand that energy drinks aren’t really “energy” in a can, but are packed with stimulants such as caffeine, guarana and taurine, all of which can be particularly dangerous to kids.  The increased threat lies in several areas, too. For example, these stimulants act as diuretics, which can lead to dehydration—especially in young athletes. Likewise, children and adolescents are highly susceptible to heat illness, since they don’t have a mature heat regulation system like adults do.

Additionally, researchers at John Hopkins say that since children and adolescents aren’t habitual caffeine users and, hence, don’t have a tolerance for it, then they are highly vulnerable to caffeine intoxication.  The numbers tell the tale, too.  Of the 5,448 caffeine overdoses in the U.S. in 2007, 46 percent of them were in people under the age of 19. Other adverse effects of energy drinks can include:  jitters, nervousness, dehydration, accelerated heart rates, anxiety, seizures, acute mania, strokes, dizziness, difficulty concentrating and focusing, gastrointestinal upset and insomnia.

What’s more is that regulation of energy drinks, including content labeling and health warnings, vary from country to country—and the United States is one of the most lax when it comes to regulating energy drinks.   Interestingly, the FDA doesn’t regulate the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, but there’s even more to the story of these monstrous beverages. Check this out.

The bottom line is that energy drinks can be a continuing nightmare if people—particularly kids, teenagers and young adults—keep using them as they have.

I think people should run fast and far from them, just as they would from any other frightening health “monster.”