FRIDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- A new report warns that
popular energy drinks such as Red Bull and Rockstar pose potential
hazards to teens, especially when mixed with alcohol.
The report, published in the February issue of the journal
Pediatrics in Review, summarizes existing research and
concludes that the caffeine-laden beverages can cause rapid
heartbeat, high blood pressure, obesity and other medical problems
in teens. Combined with alcohol, the potential harms can be severe,
the authors noted.
"I don't think there is any sensationalism going on here. These drinks can be dangerous for teens," said review lead author Dr. Kwabena Blankson, a U.S. Air Force major and an adolescent medicine specialist at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va. "They contain too much caffeine and other additives that we don't know enough about. Healthy eating, exercise and adequate sleep are better ways to get energy."
Doctors and parents need to "intelligently speak to teenagers
about why energy drinks may not be safe," Blankson said. "They need
to ask teens if they are drinking energy drinks and suggest healthy
Surveys suggest that as many as half of young people consume
these unregulated beverages, often in search of a hefty dose of
caffeine to help them wake up, stay awake or get a "buzz."
Sixteen-ounce cans of Red Bull, Monster Energy Assault and
Rockstar hold about 160 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, according to
the report. However, a much smaller container of the drink Cocaine
-- briefly banned in 2007 -- delivers 280 mg in just 8.4 ounces. By
contrast, a typical cup of coffee packs a caffeine punch of about
Too much caffeine, Blankson said, "can have troubling side
effects." More than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day is considered
unhealthy for teens, he noted.
Energy drinks are often served cold and sometimes with ice,
making them easier to chug than hot coffee. And many contain
additives such as sugar, ginseng and guarana, which enhance the
effect of caffeine, the researchers explained.
"We don't know what these additives do to the body after periods of extended use," Blankson said.
Moreover, young people often mix energy drinks and alcoholic
beverages, or buy energy drinks that contain alcohol. One-quarter
of students surveyed at 10 North Carolina universities said they
had consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol in the past month,
the report noted. And 23 university students in New Jersey and nine
in Washington state were hospitalized in 2010 after drinking an
energy drink spiked with alcohol.
U.S. health officials have sounded alarms about energy drinks as
well. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
recently reported that hospital visits related to the drinks
doubled, to almost 21,000, between 2007 and 2011. About 42 percent
of cases also included drug or alcohol use, the agency said.
According to the latest report, one unnamed 23.5-ounce alcoholic
energy drink packs the booze of a six-pack of beer and the caffeine
of five cups of coffee.
The American Beverage Association, which counts energy drink
companies among its members, took issue with the report.
"This paper contains misinformation about energy drinks and does nothing to address the very serious problem of underage drinking and excessive alcohol consumption among young adults," the ABA said in a statement released Thursday.
"Contrary to the misperception perpetuated by this paper, most mainstream energy drinks contain only about half the amount of caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee," the ABA added.
The association also noted that it has issued a recommendation
to all energy drink companies that they state on the label exactly
how much caffeine is contained in each drink, and that the beverage
is not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and
people who are sensitive to caffeine.
While Blankson's report doesn't call for banning the drinks, "as
a doctor who cares for adolescents, I can't tell them or their
parents that these products are safe," he said. "I can't even tell
them for sure how much caffeine is in some of these drinks, since
many don't include that information on the label."
Dr. Sean Patrick Nordt, director of the section of toxicology at
University of Southern California, offered a milder perspective on
the danger of the drinks, saying they appear to be "relatively
safe," especially if someone only drinks one or two.
Still, he said, they are potentially dangerous to some people
and "should be viewed as more like medication than beverages." In
particular, he said, they shouldn't be combined with alcohol,
illegal drugs or drugs.
For more on the dangers of combining
energy drinks and alcohol, try the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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