Feds Begin to Worry About Health Effects of Energy Drinks

As sales of popular energy drinks soar, so do the concerns of health professionals and certain government officials. Monster and Red Bull represent the top selling energy drink brands in the country, and our government is expressing concerns regarding the companies’ direct marketing to children and young adults.

Recent teen deaths, resulting from the over consumption of caffeine (and energy drinks specifically), have been a particularly troubling development. The average energy drink contains 160 to 240 milligrams of caffeine per 16 ounce can. Despite the fact that one 16 ounce cup of Starbucks coffee contains 330 milligrams of caffeine, drinkers of energy drinks often consume more than one in a short period of time, frequently drinking quite a few over the course of a single day. Furthermore, experts say that the caffeine in these drinks is not the only problem. Energy drinks contain an abundance of sugar and a cocktail of vitamins and other stimulants. The combination of these elements is believed to be potentially dangerous, especially for young people.

John Higgins, a University of Texas professor, recently conducted a study on himself and healthy University of Texas students, chronicling the effects of energy drinks on heart health. He observed for himself that his blood vessels turned sluggish and opened poorly after consumption of a 24 ounce can of Monster energy drink. This was compared to how they performed prior to consuming the energy drink.

Despite these concerns, however, energy drink sales show no sign of slowing. Sales in the United States went over $10 billion in 2012 alone, which is higher than both iced tea and perennial favorite sports-drink Gatorade. Manufacturers of these beverages enjoy pointing out that energy drinks contain less caffeine per ounce than brewed coffee. However, these energy drinks contain five times more caffeine than most sodas.

This is significant because energy drinks are consumed much like soda, which is to say, quickly and in large quantities. Coffee, on the other hand, is typically consumed slowly by regular drinkers, once or twice per day. Furthermore, teenagers are less likely to be coffee drinkers and are typically lacking the sort of caffeine acclimation that comes with regular coffee consumption. Energy drink stimulants such as guarana and ginseng compound the effects of the caffeine and sugar, and most energy beverages fail to list the exact amounts of either ingredient.

Manufacturers of energy drinks have declared their products safe, but the government is considering the possibility of getting involved, specifically to halt the advertising geared toward minors.

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