The ongoing controversy over energy drinks came roaring back into the national spotlight last week. The parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier filed a lawsuit against Monster Energy claiming the caffeine in the company’s drink killed their daughter.
According to the New York Times, the young girl consumed two 24-ounce Monster Energy drinks in 24 hours – each containing 240 milligrams of caffeine or 7 times the amount of caffeine found in a 12-ounce cola. Her autopsy attributed her death to “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.”
The Times also reports that between 2004 and June of this year the FDA has received reports of five deaths and 37 adverse events linked to Monster ranging from stomach pain to vomiting and abnormal heart rate. While investigating the allegations, the agency is also stating that the reports do not necessarily prove a causal relationship.
The results of the FDA’s inquiry should be of some interest to America’s youth. It seems that high school and college athletes are increasingly consuming large quantities of these caffeine and sugar-loaded drinks to boost athletic performance or lose weight. Super-charged beverages have also found favor at colleges as a study aid for sleepy students and as a mixer for alcohol for late night partying.
According to recent research, about a third of 12- to 24-year-olds say they regularly consume energy drinks catapulting the energy drink industry to a whopping $6.2 billion in yearly revenue. Marketing themselves as sources of increased energy, improved athletic performance and invigorated mental alertness, the industry’s websites feature high-flying motorcyclists and upside-down skateboarders as dynamic embodiments of the concentrated energy that is held in their little can of liquid dynamite.
The primary horsepower behind these super-charged sodas are caffeine and sugar. The average energy drink contains 80 to 90 mg of caffeine, which is approximately the amount found in a cup of coffee.
Some brands, however, offer as much as 3,200 mg of caffeine in an 8 ounce serving. When you combine that with an average dosage per can of 25 to 38 grams of sugar –roughly 6 to 9 teaspoons – you’ve got your self a beverage with some serious kick.
There’s no shortage of anecdotal tales of emergency room visits by youngsters who have over imbibed on an energy drink. In 2007, Doherty High School in Colorado Springs banned the energy drink Spike Shooter, which boasts 300 mg in caffeine, after several students became sick after drinking the beverage.
In Broward County, Florida, four middle school students were rushed to the emergency room suffering with heart palpitations after drinking Redline. And in Tigard, Oregon, teachers sent parents an email message alerting them that students who brought energy drinks to school were “literally drunk on a caffeine buzz.”
The energy drink industry contends that their beverages are completely safe. In the meantime, over 100 health experts have called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require warning labels on the hundreds of energy drinks that are on the market today.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.