The Dangers Behind Energy Drinks

According to a consumer advocacy group, energy drinks have been linked to 17 deaths since October 2012, prompting the group to request that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration add a safety warning on the caffeine-charged beverages to notify consumers of the risk of convulsions, heart attacks, and other adverse reactions to the energy drinks. In addition, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) asked the FDA to require thorough studies on the health effects of the various herbal and chemical ingredients such as guarana seed, milk thistle extract, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, carnitine, glucuronalactone, and taurine used in energy beverages as well as their potential interactions with caffeine.

While no study has successfully proven that these drinks directly caused the fatalities, CSPI reported that 34 people died over the last 10 years in the United States after drinking Rockstar, Monster, and 5-Hour Energy beverages. CSPI calculated the numbers using data obtained from the FDA. The executive director of CSPI stated that he doubts anyone understands what the chemicals in these beverages do, and it is not yet clear what their risks are.

Additionally, more than 50 individuals were hospitalized for heart attacks, convulsions, and high blood pressure after consuming the energy drinks. While adults often enjoy the caffeine boost to make it through their workdays, energy drinks are especially popular with teenagers and college-aged individuals who rely on caffeine for school and extracurricular activities. Studies show that few people realize the adverse effects that these drinks can have on one’s health, particularly since the main ingredient, caffeine, is readily available in sodas at any grocery store or gas station throughout the country.

An FDA spokesperson said that the agency has been continually studying the drinks over the past several years and is currently investigating the alleged fatalities. According to the agency, a person who consumes an energy drink and then passes away may not necessarily have died because of complications with the beverage. Rather, there may be other factors, including medications that the person may have been taking, or an existing condition such as heart disease, that was worsened or triggered by the ingredients in the drinks.

Christopher Gindlesperger, a representative for the American Beverage Association, maintained that energy drinks are safe as they meet all of the current standards required by the FDA. Still, CSPI has asked the FDA to lower the legally allowed amount of caffeine in the beverages to 71 milligrams per 12 ounces–the same amount that is permissible in sodas and other similar drinks.

This is not the first time that CSPI has asked the FDA to take action in an attempt to make products healthier for consumers. In 2003, CSPI succeeded in its 10-year campaign to list information pertaining to trans-fats on all Nutrition Facts labels. Two years later, the group urged the agency to update sugar-rich drinks with warning labels that inform consumers of the risk of obesity.