Study Questions Safety, Effectiveness Of Energy Drinks

Energy drinks such as Red Bull and Full Throttle apparently do not benefit consumers the way that they claim to, and could be harmful to younger children, according to the findings of a new study published online in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

In their study, University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine Chair of Pediatrics Steven Lipshultz and his colleagues reviewed more than 120 different scientific studies, government reports, and media sources regarding energy drinks, USA Today reporter Nanci Hellmich said in an article.

Even though 30% to 50% of teenagers and adults consume such products, Lipshultz told Hellmich that his team “didn’t see evidence that drinks have beneficial effects in improving energy, weight loss, stamina, athletic performance and concentration.”

Furthermore, according to Nicole Ostrow of Bloomberg, “Some of the ingredients in the drinks are understudied and not regulated”¦ [and] children with diabetes, mood disorders and heart, kidney or liver diseases may have reactions including heart palpitations, seizures, cardiac arrest or even death, the authors said.”

Judith Schaechter, study author and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami, told Ostrow that roughly one-third of kids between the ages of 12 and 14 consume these energy drinks, which contain caffeine and sugar, among other ingredients. Schechter and her co-authors also said that 46% of the individuals who overdosed on caffeine in the US in 2007 were under the age of 19.

“Pediatricians need to be aware of the possible effects of energy drinks,” Lipshultz told Ostrow in a February 11 email. “Toxicity surveillance should be improved and regulations of energy-drink sales and consumption should be based on appropriate research assessing energy drink safety.”

Likewise, he told Hellmich that research has shown that children and teenagers are more likely to suffer health complications from these beverages, especially if they suffer from cardiovascular, renal or liver disease, seizures, diabetes, mood and behavior disorders and/or hyperthyroidism.

Officials from the beverage industry have taken issue with the study.

In a statement cited by USA Today, Maureen Storey of the American Beverage Association said that the University of Miami report “does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation about energy drinks, their ingredients and the regulatory process,” and that government data has indicated that “caffeine consumed from energy drinks for those under the age of 18 is less than the caffeine derived from all other sources including soft drinks, coffee and teas.”

Patrice Radden, a spokeswoman for Red Bull, told Bloomberg that their product “is available in over 160 countries because health authorities across the world have concluded that Red Bull Energy Drink is safe to consume”¦ Last year alone, over 4 billion cans and bottles were consumed across the world.”

In a separate statement quoted from by USA Today, officials from the energy drink manufacturer added that the study “largely ignores in its conclusions the genuine, scientifically rigorous examination of energy drinks by reputable national authorities. … The effects of caffeine are well-known, and as an 8.4-oz. can of Red Bull contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (80 milligrams), it should be treated accordingly.”

Ostrow attempted to contact officials at California-based Hansen’s Natural, the manufacturers of the Monster Energy drink, but spoke to an individual who would not identify herself and declined to comment on the study.

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