To the Editor,
The popularity of energy drinks has ski-rocketed over the years; they are consumed by a large number of children, adolescents, teenagers, and college students. In fact, 30 to 50 percent of young people consume these popular drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in U.S annual sales. It is important for people to be aware that heavy caffeine consumption has been associated with adverse health consequences.
Many people can consume caffeine in moderation with no problems, and caffeine can offer some benefits. In small doses caffeine is a ventilatory stimulant with anti-inflammatory and bronchoprotective effects; however, according to an article published in the pediatrics medical journal titled, “Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children,” heavy caffeine consumption has also been linked to serious health consequences, especially in adolescents, teenagers, and young people with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, mood/behavior disorders, hyperthyroidism, or in children taking certain medications.
Many people are unaware that energy drinks, unlike soda, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are manufactured by companies as dietary supplements, which protects them from caffeine limits, safety testing, and labeling requirements. In addition to the unknown amounts of caffeine, there are other stimulant ingredients in energy drinks such as taurine and guarana.
In 2007, 5,448 caffeine overdoses were reported in the United States, with 46 percent of the cases occurring in those younger than 19 years. In the past, U.S poison control centers have not tracked overdoses attributed to energy drinks; however, due to growing concern, energy drinks were recently appointed specific reporting codes, so their toxicity can now be tracked. Based on average body weights of children, daily caffeine intake for children aged 4 to 6 should be no more than 45mg; 62.5 mg for children aged 7 to 9; and 85 mg for children aged 10 to 12. Red Bull provides 77 mg of caffeine in 8 ounces; Spike Shooter provides 300 mg of caffeine in 8.4 ounces.
Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine, taurine, and guarana, which have stimulant properties and cardiac and hematologic activity. The public needs to be aware of the possible health effects of energy drinks in vulnerable populations. Globally, heavy caffeine consumption, such as over-consumption of energy drinks, has been associated with serious consequences, such as vomiting, seizures, mania, stroke, and sudden death.
Health, Physical Education & Recreation Department
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke