There’s been a lot of discussion over whether caffeine-spiked “Energy Drinks” are really safe for consumption, particularly for kids and young adults. Although many manufacturers add the advisory statement “not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine” on their label, it often goes ignored.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that as these drinks have become more popular, the incidences of caffeine related overdoses and deaths have increased.
In one heartbreaking example, 14-year-old Anais Fournier died from cardiac arrest due to caffeine toxicity after consuming two 24- ounce cans of Monster energy drink a day apart.
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating whether there is causal link to the drinks and health problems, Mayo Clinic researcher Anna Svatikova and her colleagues wanted more information about exactly what happens in your body after you consume one of the drinks.
She and her team recruited 25 volunteers. All were young adults age 18 or older, nonsmokers, free of known disease, and not taking medications. They were asked to drink a 16-ounce can of a Rockstar energy drink and a placebo -- with the same taste, texture, color and nutritional contents but without the caffeine and other stimulants -- within five minutes on two separate days.
The energy drink had the following stimulants: 240 mg of caffeine, 2,000 mg of taurine and extracts of guarana seed, ginseng root and milk thistle. All typical ingredients associated with energy drinks.
Researchers took numerous measurements first before they drank and 30 minutes after. With the placebo, there was very little change. With the energy drink, however, many of the changes were marked:
• Systolic blood pressure (the top number) - 6.2 percent increase
• Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) - 6.8 percent increase
• Average blood pressure - 6.4 percent increase
• Heart rate - none
• Caffeine in blood - increase from undetectable to 3.4 micrograms/mL
• Norepinephrine level (the stress hormone, which can give you the shakes when you have too much caffeine) in blood - increase from 150 pg/mL to 250 pg/ML
Writing in JAMA, the researchers said that these changes may predispose those who drink a single drink to increased cardiovascular risk.
This may explain why a number of those who died after consuming energy drinks appeared to have had heart attacks.
They also exposed the volunteers to two-minute physical, mental, and cold stressors after consuming the energy drinks to see how that might affect blood pressure and other body functions.
The physical stressor involved asking participants to squeeze on a handgrip; the mental one to complete a series of mathematical tasks as fast as possible; and the cold one immersing their one hand into ice water. Interestingly, there was no further change.
Another thing that is typically overlooked when people choose one of these drinks is the serving size. A 16-ounce can is two servings. A 24-ounce can has three servings. Caffeine and sugar content is often listed per serving. But honestly, how many people drink a third or half a can at a time? Besides caffeine, other stimulants are often added to energy drinks such as Ginseng and Guarana. Most people have no idea what they are, what they do and if they negatively interact with medications.
The American Beverage Association defends the drinks and said in a statement that "there is nothing unique about the caffeine in mainstream energy drinks, which is about half that of a similar sized cup of coffeehouse coffee" and that drinking coffee would have produced similar effects.
“The safety of energy drinks has been established by scientific research as well as regulatory agencies around the globe. Just this year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients after an extensive review," the organization said.
It’s up to parents to decide whether these drinks are beneficial to their family or if they should re-think purchasing one for themselves or their child. A family discussion about the pros and cons of energy drinks with pre-teens and teenagers could give the kids the information they need to make a good choice.
Source: Ariana Eunjung Cha, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=2469194