Energy Drinks: More Deadly Than Healthy
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has subpoenaed three makers of energy drinks — Monster Beverage, PepsiCo and Living Essentials — in an investigation about whether they have been misleading consumers about health risks and, too, possibly violating federal law by promoting the drinks as dietary supplements rather than as foods (which are under FDA regulation).
In particular, the companies are accused of misleading consumers about the drinks’ caffeine content and whether all the ingredients in the drugs are accurately disclosed, says the New York Times. For instance, labels may say that drinks contain black tea extract and guarana, but may not note that these contain additional caffeine.
The drinks contain from about 80 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams of caffeine; one test has shown that 5-Hour Energy Drink contains about 207 milligrams of caffeine. In contrast, a 12-ounce drink of cola has about 50 milligrams of caffeine and a 5-ounce coffee about 100 milligrams.
Energy Drinks and College Student Culture
I had never given much thought to the drinks until noting cans of Monster on the sidewalk outside student dorms after a weekend, seeing one of my students line up a couple of 5-Hour Energy Drinks on a desk before taking an exam and hearing another student’s account about the two good-sized energy drinks he had downed while pulling an all-nighter to finish papers.
Doing this sort of thing is, no matter what any study says, routine for college students. About 30 percent of college students have been found to consume energy drinks routinely and consumption of energy drinks has only grown among them and high school students in recent years.
But ingesting so much caffeine in concentrated amounts could affect cardiovascular functioning. Despite all these dire warnings, many students think they’re invincible and can drink as much as they can, forego sleep for days and still “function.”
A Deadly Combo: Energy Drinks + Alcohol
In the New York Times, Amelia M. Arria, an epidemiologist who serves as director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, is especially concerned about consumption of energy drinks along with alcohol:
“A person who co-ingests an energy drink and alcohol doesn’t understand how drunk they are. Caffeine keeps you awake so you can keep drinking, and high levels of caffeine can mask intoxication.”
“In my opinion, some of the marketing messages go overboard about the health benefits of these drinks. “The term ‘energy drink’ is misleading. Energy should come from calories — this is more about stimulation.”
Data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network, under the Department of Health and Human Services, says that emergency visits linked to energy drinks rose from 2005 to 2008.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, New York’s investigation could expand to other companies. If the energy drink companies are found to have violated New York state regulations about food and drugs, they may have to pay fines and change their marketing. Spokespeople for Monster, PepsiCo and Living Essentials have offered (are you surprised?) no comment.
As often, one wants to emphasize, water is best.
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Photo by Matteo Paciotti | Photography