The FDA is investigating a number of deaths that are allegedly linked to energy drinks and shots. This investigation is being conducted amid an increasing number of reports about adverse effects related to energy drinks.
The consumption of energy drinks has grown exponentially in the last five to ten years. Red Bull, Mother, and other energy drinks are made up of caffeine in varying quantities, guarana, taurine, and ginseng. Additives include amino acids, carbohydrates, and vitamins.
According to their manufacturers, these drinks are designed to maintain alertness. Therefore, they target athletes, students, and professionals who require extended alertness. These drinks are commonly found at dance parties and nightclubs, where they’re often mixed with alcohol and recreational drugs like ecstasy.
In recent years, Australia has reported on the adverse effects caused by these energy drinks.
Caffeine, caffeine, and other additives
Caffeine is the main ingredient in energy drinks and has been linked to a number of adverse health outcomes for those who are susceptible. There are three main effects on heart health: increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased blood viscosity, which can cause clots to form in the heart.
Recent medical publications have described three independent cases in which the consumption of energy drinks caused catastrophic outcomes, including heart rhythm disturbances or cardiac arrest.
These are serious cardiac rhythm disorders that can cause sudden death in young people. These effects can be observed even with just one can of energy drinks.
The consumption of energy drinks has been associated with anxiety, insomnia, and nervousness. It is also linked to addictive behaviors, panic attacks, and vomiting. In pregnant women, caffeine consumption is associated with the risk of late miscarriage, stillbirth, and small-for-gestational-age infants.
Other additives found in energy drinks can exacerbate these effects. The marketing of these drinks, which encourages them to be consumed quickly and at high concentrations in order to get a quick boost in energy, magnifies the negative effects. The introduction of “energy shots”, small-volume, high-concentration shots of caffeine and taurine available at petrol stations, supports this marketing strategy.
What should I do?
Health professionals and the public face major challenges due to the wide variety of energy drinks available on the market. They also have to contend with the fact that the industry as a whole is not regulated. The fact that these energy drinks are clearly aimed at children, teenagers, and young adults should be cause for concern.
People are likely to be unaware of the differences in caffeine dose and chemical composition in energy drinks. Energy drink cans are not adequately warned about the dangers of overdose, poisoning, and death.
Energy drinks in Australia are regulated by Standard 2.6.4 under the Code, and the maximum caffeine permitted is 320 milligrams/liter. Because many energy drinks are only sold in small quantities, they contain more additives than the limit.
The typical can of energy drinks contains up to 300 mg of caffeine. This caffeine comes from both added caffeine and naturally occurring sources like guarana. However, the volume of these drinks is much less than one liter, usually less than 200 milliliters. The same goes for “energy shots,” as they clearly do not meet Standard 2.6.4. In an effort to avoid the standard requirements set by both the FDA and FSANZ, many energy drinks are marketed under the names “dietary supplements” or “conventional food.”
We need to increase community awareness and education about the potential dangers of energy drinks, especially for young people. It may be necessary to take drastic measures such as putting clear and graphic warnings on the cans of energy drinks in order to alert people about their potential dangers.
A second initiative could be to limit the sale of energy drinks to adolescents and children, as they are the main target of advertising for energy drinks and face a lot of peer pressure. These measures are designed to raise community awareness about the harmful effects of energy drink consumption.
In Australia, we will certainly be watching the results of the FDA’s current investigation into the reported 13 deaths with interest.