-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- As the popularity of
energy drinks has soared, so has the number of Americans seeking
treatment in hospital emergency rooms after consuming these highly
caffeinated beverages, federal health officials report.
Between 2007 and 2011, the number of ER visits more than doubled
from roughly 10,000 to almost 21,000. In 2011, 58 percent of these
ER visits involved energy drinks alone, while 42 percent also
included drug or alcohol use.
Most of these cases involved teens or young adults, although
there was an alarming spike in the number of people aged 40 and
older showing up in the ER after consuming these drinks, according
to the report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration. Symptoms ranged from insomnia,
nervousness, headaches and fast heartbeats to seizures.
Energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine that can
stimulate both the central nervous system and cardiovascular
system, experts note. Caffeine levels in energy drinks range from
about 80 milligrams (mg) to more than 500 mg in a can or bottle,
the report noted, while a 5-ounce cup of coffee contains 100 mg of
caffeine and a 12-ounce soda contains 50 mg of caffeine, the report
The beverages can also have other ingredients that may boost the
stimulant effects of caffeine, according to report.
Many doctors are concerned about the high levels of caffeine in
energy drinks, which can cause a major increase in heart rate and
drive up blood pressure, explained Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a
preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York
"In anyone who has any underlying heart condition, these two effects can be deadly," she told HealthDayrecently. "Know what you're drinking before you drink it."
Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien, a leading expert on energy drinks from
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, N.C., had this
this to say about the findings.
"The issue is not the doubling of emergency department visits. That is the symptom," O'Brien said. "The 'disease' is the failure of the federal government to regulate energy drinks as beverages."
Adding to the problem is the fact that most consumers,
especially the young adults who are targeted by the makers of these
beverages, are not aware of the serious health risks involved, she
Meanwhile, the American Beverage Association took issue with the
report, which was released late last week.
"This report does not share information about the overall health of those who may have consumed energy drinks, or what symptoms brought them to the ER in the first place," the association said in a statement on its website. "In fact, it shows that 42 percent of the reported ER visits were by someone who had admitted to consuming alcohol or taking illegal substances or pharmaceuticals. However, there is no way to assess whether any of the remaining individuals chose not to report this fact, and the consumption of those substances along with energy drinks means the energy drinks may be irrelevant."
According to the report, pills were the most common drugs
combined with energy drinks (27 percent), with 9 percent of those
involving stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin. About 10 percent
of the visits included the use of illicit drugs, with 5 percent
Males accounted for about two-thirds or more of energy
drink-related ER visits during the four years. Visits for both
males and females doubled between 2007 and 2011, from about 7,000
to nearly 15,000 visits for males and from nearly 3,000 to nearly
6,000 visits for females.
People aged 18 to 25 accounted for most of the energy
drink-related ED visits, followed by people aged 26 to 39. However,
the report found that visits by people aged 40 and older increased
279 percent over those four years, from nearly 1,400 to about
Concerns about energy drinks have been heightened following
reports last fall of 18 deaths possibly linked to the products, and
two U.S. senators want the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to
investigate the safety of these beverages, the
Associated Pressreported. The FDA said in a statement that
it will review the safety of energy drinks this spring, the wire
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
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