Are Energy Drinks Dangerous?
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If these drinks are part of your child's regular diet, a study released last week by researchers in Miami indicates that your kids could be at risk.
The study, headed by Dr. Steven Lipshultz, dean of child safety at University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, concluded there is no "therapeutic value" in energy drinks. While the popular drinks advertise benefits ranging from re-energizing athletes to increasing stamina, Lipshultz said it's quite possible the drinks actually have the opposite effect.
Even worse, Lipshultz said the sugar, caffeine and other ingredients in the drinks aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration—which classifies them as dietary supplements—and may be dangerous in combination with alcohol and for kids with ADHD, heart conditions and diabetes.
"I was totally shocked by what I found," said Lipshultz, a working pediatrician who also heads the Holtz Children's Hospital in Miami. "We just don't have a lot of information."
Until last year, the U.S. Poison Control Center did not specifically track caffeine-related overdoses related to energy drinks, Lipshultz said. But there are still enough unexplained injuries and deaths to spark significant concern, he said.
In May 2008 in Wellington, Fla., 16-year-old honor student Ashley Ramnauth died after combining energy drinks and alcohol. An autopsy never determined the exact cause of death, but Ramnauth's parents have said they are certain energy drinks are to blame.
In 2003, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Belcher died during spring training. His death was connected to ephedra, a substance that was part of energy drinks at the time. All uses of ephedra have since been banned.
Several countries have ordered complete or partial bans of energy drinks or required warning labels on cans after several deaths that appeared to be related to energy drinks in the past few years. Denmark , Turkey and Uruguay have banned all energy drinks, Germany has banned 11 of 16 brands and Australia has banned 5 energy drink makers.
"Other countries are studying energy drinks and many are banning or heavily regulating the products," Lipshultz said. "At some point, you have to wonder why that is happening."
The American Beverage Association quickly shot down the report last week. "This literature review does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation about energy drinks, their ingredients and the regulatory process," the lobbying group said in a statement on its website. And energy drinker maker Red Bull said in a statement that the study did not take into account the "scientifically rigorous examination of energy drinks by reputable national authorities."
The ABA also argued that teens "aren't large consumers of energy drinks" and that the average energy drink can contains no more caffeine than a cup of coffee.