Energy drinks have been one of the latest fads in beverage options for the last few years, but are they safe? Are there any side effects from the extra bit of energy one may get from consuming such a drink? These answers and more are being questioned by federal regulators as they investigate what appears to be 5 deaths linked to these beverages.
The FDA is investigating reports of five deaths and a nonfatal heart attack in people who drank the high-caffeine energy drinks made by the Monster Energy Company.
Meanwhile, a Maryland couple has filed a wrongful death suit against the company, alleging that their product killed their 14-year-old daughter on Christmas Eve in 2011. They say Anais Fournier, age 14, collapsed after drinking her second 24-ounce Monster Energy drink in two days. She died six days later from “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity,” according to the lawsuit, which cited a state autopsy report.
The lawsuit notes that Monster Energy does not list the amount of caffeine in Monster Energy. It estimates that each of the two cans the girl drank contained 240 mg of caffeine. Recommended teen and child doses of caffeine should not exceed 100 mg per day; adults should have no more than 400 mg per day.
The lawsuit claims Monster Energy is a dangerous product, that its maker failed to warn consumers of any risk, and that the company is negligent in marketing the product to teens and young adults.
Monster Energy responded to the lawsuit by saying, “Over the past 16 years Monster has sold more than 8 billion energy drinks, which have been safely consumed worldwide,” as stated by outside spokesman, Evan Pondel. “Monster does not believe that its beverages are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier. Monster is unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks.”
Monster and competitors such as Red Bull aren’t bound by the FDA guidelines for caffeine in sodas, because energy drinks are often sold as dietary supplements. Monster doesn’t list the amount of caffeine in its proprietary formula, only that the ingredient along with the plant extract guarana, a caffeine-containing plant, and the amino acid taurine are in the drink, according to the lawsuit.
“FDA continues to evaluate the emerging science on a variety of ingredients, including caffeine,” FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said in an email.
The reports aren’t the first health warnings about energy drinks. Last year, the U.S. Drug Abuse Warning Network reported a tenfold spike in emergency-room visits involving energy drinks. In some 70% of cases involving teens ages 12 to 17, the energy-drink itself — not drugs or alcohol — was the main reason for going to the ER.
Last year, researchers at the University of Miami reviewed the health effects of energy drinks on children, teens, and young adults.
Writing in the journal Pediatrics, they concluded that “energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit” and that “these drinks may put some children at risk for serious adverse health effects.”
These “health effects” include irregular heart rhythms and, in children who may have hidden heart risks, sudden death.[hr]