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Are Energy Drinks Dangerous?

Caffeine is a great “natural” way for many people to beat sluggishness. Energy drinks present a quick, easy way to boost energy levels. However, recent reports may indicate that the amount of caffeine allowed in energy drinks exceeds any safe level the body can process. The 2011 death of 14-year old Anais Fournier has created a stir in the world of energy drinks and energy products. An autopsy performed on the girl’s body indicated cause of death as “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.” Ms. Fournier had consumed 2- 24oz. Monster Energy drinks within a 24 hour period that contained 240mg of caffeine per sitting. Normal levels of caffeine found in beverages are legally allowed around 71mg per 12 oz. serving. These beverages, including soft drinks, are regulated by the FDA. Energy drinks are not FDA regulated as they fall under the dietary supplement category. By having no regulation, energy drink manufacturers including Red Bull and RockStar, in addition to Monster Energy, are legally allowed to formulate the beverages at their discretion. The caffeine levels in energy drinks averagely run 160mg to 500mg per serving. The FDA Center for Food Safety Adverse Event Reporting System cited 5 energy drink related deaths, as well as a slew of other health problems including heart attack, tremors, irregular heart rate, stomach pain, and vomiting. In addition, emergency room visits reportedly rose 10-fold between 2005 and 2009. Monster Energy claims they have no knowledge of any adverse reactions or deaths due to their products and were made aware of Ms. Fournier’s passing because of a lawsuit filed by her family. Monster claims that their products are safe, though not recommended for people with underlying health conditions. In fairness, Ms. Fournier had a heart condition in addition to another chronic condition. However, with no accountability for the amount of caffeine included in their products, energy drink manufacturer’s could still be found liable for her death. Monster Energy stock has plummeted since the incident release by the FDA, dropping nearly 14%. Legislators are calling upon the FDA to start monitoring these companies and the ingredients they use in their products. Currently, no energy beverage must state the amount of caffeine on their product labels. With these types of products heavily marketed to young adults and teenagers, in addition to their place as a sponsor for many sports events, energy drinks are extremely popular. At least 34 complaints filed with the FDA indicate that caffeine levels in energy drinks surpass safe levels for the body. Sources: Time Healthland - Bloomberg - The New York Times -
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