Energy Drinks Health Warning: Potential Caffeine Overdose

Every since the Red Bull energy drink hit the market back in 1997, the sale of energy drinks has skyrocketed. Today, there are also a huge number of different brands on the market in many different flavors. Marketers of energy drinks produce slick, high priced marketing campaigns that have been highly successful at attracting a wide customer base. Their promises of super alertness and/or better sports performance have made energy drinks very popular with young people and adults. However, many in the medical profession are concerned about the potential dangers from energy drinks due to the amount of caffeine in them.

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A study on energy drinks revealed some interesting facts about the drinks. Roland Griffiths, PhD, is a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and senior author of a report on the beverages. In an interview with WebMD, he stated that studies have shown that some energy drinks contain as much caffeine as 14 cans of soda. This has prompted a call for a health-warning label on some of the drinks for potential caffeine overdose. Marketers of energy drinks market the product as a dietary supplement, which are sold without FDA review or approval. As such, marketers of energy drinks aren’t required to put the ingredients of their product or a caffeine content warning label on the product. Medical professionals think these warning labels are necessary due to the effects of caffeine on the mind and body. Although the FDA limits the caffeine contents of cola-type soft drinks to 71 milligrams per 12 fluid ounces, no such limit is required on energy drinks, Griffiths told WebMD.

Energy Drinks: Caffeine Content

Griffiths and his colleagues contacted more than two dozen makers of energy drinks, asking for caffeine content. Here are some of the findings:

(The caffeine content is in milligrams per serving. Although serving sizes vary, Griffiths contends that most people will drink the entire can, whatever the number of ounces.)

  • Red Bull: 80 milligrams per 8.3-ounce serving
  • Tab Energy: 95 mg per 10.5-oz serving
  • Monster and Rockstar: 160 mg per 16-oz serving
  • No Fear: 174 mg per 16-oz serving
  • Fixx: 500 per 20-oz serving
  • Wired X505: 505 mg per 24-oz serving

In comparison, according to Griffiths:

  • Brewed coffee: 200 milligrams per 12-oz serving
  • Instant coffee: 140 mg per 12-oz serving
  • Brewed tea: 80 mg per 12-oz serving
  • Mountain Dew: 54 mg per 12 oz. serving
  • Dr. Pepper: 41 mg per 12-oz serving
  • Pepsi Cola: 38 mg per 12-oz serving
  • Coca-Cola Classic: 34.5 mg per 12-oz serving
  • Canned or bottled tea: 20 mg per 12-oz serving

Some of the energy drinks have lower caffeine contents, Griffith says. Among the lower doses:

  • Bomba Energy has 75 mg per 8.4-oz serving
  • Whoop Ass has 50 mg per 8.5-oz serving

Some of the negative health effects of energy drinks as reported to U.S. poison control centers are nausea and vomiting, high blood pressure, tremors, dizziness, and numbness. Medical professionals are also concerned about energy drinks being stepping-stones to uncontrolled “recreational” stimulant usage. In addition, there is concern over energy drinks being combined with alcohol usage, This creates a false sense of alertness from energy drinks that could lead to DUI’s or worse.

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