Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Energy Drinks Need Warning Labels
Experts from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine are calling for health warning labels on "energy drinks" due to their high caffeine content that may pose a risk to adolescents and young adults. A single serving of some of these drinks can contain more than 500 mg of caffeine, an amount equal to 14 cans of Coca Cola.
Because the amount of caffeine is often not labeled, there is variability between the drinks and people don't know what to expect. In a 2007 survey of 496 college students, 51% reported consuming at least 1 energy drink during the past month. Of these energy-drink users, 29% reported "weekly jolt-and-crash" episodes and 19% reported heart palpitations from consuming these beverages.
It is common for young folks to combine energy drinks and alcohol and it is a common recreational practice. Bars stock "Red Bull" and other energy drinks and young adults pay for "Table Service" where they secure a party table at a club, stocked with champagne, vodka, other spirits and energy drinks. The caffeine from the energy drink not only potentiates the alcohol effects, but the drinker can consume more over a period of time.
We are giving weird messages to our kids when they can buy an energy drink called "Blow" which is sold in vials and the energy drink "Cocaine" that mimics illicit drugs. The cocaine website shows Christina Aguilera singing the national anthem (patriotic cocaine?) and it encourages kids to "Rock the Vote". Very mainstream and grown-up.
I don't know if warning labels are the right answer. At the very least parents should know what is out there and be educating kids at an early age about health and making right choices.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 6:57 AM