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article imageStudy: Energy drinks pose health risk to children, young adults

By Adeline Yuboco     Feb 14, 2011 in Health
Data gathered during a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Miami have shown that consumption of energy drinks by young adults and children can lead to a number of health problems.
According to the report, which has been published in the medical journal Pediatrics, energy drinks have been linked to the development of a variety of health problems among kids and young adults including diabetes, heart conditions, hyperthyroidism, and mood and behavioral disorders. The health risks posed by energy drinks are higher for children and young adults that have been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and ADHD.
In addition, the team that conducted the research study determined that the results of the survey they conducted on teens and young adults did not show any evidence that the energy drinks have provided them the benefits they promise, which include its ability to boost endurance, athletic performance, concentration, weight loss and stamina.
"Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit," Sara Seifert, a medical student at the University of Miami and head of the research study conducted, said.
"Many [of the] ingredients are not regulated. Both the known and unknown pharmacology of [the] various ingredients [used in the production of energy drinks], combined with reports of toxicity, suggest that these drinks may put some children at risk for serious adverse health effects."
Maureen Storey of the industry group American Beverage Association disputed the results of the study stating that "this literature review does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation about energy drinks, their ingredients and the regulatory process" by pointing to government data showing that the amount of caffeine included in these energy drinks is less than the caffeine in other sources like soft drinks, coffee and teas.
The makers of Red Bull also released a statement following the publishing of the report, claiming that "the study largely ignores in its conclusions the genuine, scientifically rigorous examination of energy drinks by reputable national authorities."
"The effects of caffeine [in energy drinks] are well-known, and as an 8.4-oz. can of Red Bull contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (80 milligrams), it should be treated accordingly," the USAToday reports.
Dr. William Roberts, a specialist in sports medicine from the University of Minnesota, who was not part of the team that conducted the research study, counters these claims.
"I look at them (the amount of caffeine contents in energy drinks) as being more in the range of three to five cups of coffee, which is more stimulation than you need," he said.
The Star Tribune adds weight to Roberts claim: Energy drinks contain 75 to 400 milligrams of caffeine, more than a can of Mountain Dew, at 54 milligrams, and potentially more than a tall cup of Starbucks coffee. And while they boast natural stimulants such as taurine and guarana, doctors said their effects are unproven.
Jessica Wehrman—spokeswoman for the American Association of Poison Control Centers—told Bloomberg News that it has began tracking energy drinks as a separate category of caffeinated products late last year. As of 2011, poison control centers in the United States have reported receiving 331 calls in reference to energy drinks, with rapid heartbeat as the most common complaint. One-quarter of the calls involved children aged 5 years old and below while another quarter of the calls involving children between 13 and 19 years old.
The agency had also reported 677 cases of energy drink overdoses and side effects during the last quarter of 2010, according to the Associated Press.
Other countries have also published data showing the adverse effects resulting from the consumption of energy drinks. The MedPage Today reports:
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.
Dr. Steven Lipshultz—Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami—pointed out that 30-50 percent of children in the United States alone consume energy drinks, providing the bulk of the revenue of these products such as Red Bull, Full Throttle, Monster Energy and Rockstar—which can reach about $9 billion this year.
An array of energy drinks on a shelf
An array of energy drinks on a shelf
Simon le nippon
Energy drinks are classified as dietary supplements and are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, they do not go through the same strict limits the agency imposes on potentially harmful ingredients such as caffeine.
TIME reports:
Lipshultz was also surprised to find that energy drinks receive less scrutiny than sodas and over-the-counter medications, which allows energy drink manufacturers to include potentially concerning levels of ingredients in their products. Based on the labels on their cans, for example, some energy drinks contain as much as twice the caffeine as the stimulant NoDoz; most contain three times the caffeine found in caffeinated sodas.
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