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Risks/deaths attributed to energy drinks

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Energy drinks are a popular beverage throughout the U.S. Nationally, 2012 sales totaled $12.5 billion for the industry, and it shows no signs of abating in the near future. With the heavy consumption of these beverages new information and concerns are coming to light, showing that those who use these drinks may be putting their life on the line.

Anatomy of an energy drink

The most popular brands of energy drinks are usually made in similar ways. They are all flavored beverages with high amounts of caffeine and additional additives, including vitamins, herbal supplements, taurine, creatine, sugar, and guarana, a plant extract that contains high doses of caffeine. They are typically sold in large cans or bottles, and can be found in almost any grocery store, bar, convenience store or gas station in the country. Caffeine in each bottle or can varies from 80 to 500 milligrams, despite the FDA’s recommended maximum of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for adults.

Real risks

A young man recently died of heart failure after consuming a popular energy drink. According to Medical Daily, the 33-year-old collapsed at a basketball game just minutes after he downed an entire energy drink. Doctors indicate that he suffered from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, a type of heart attack that causes the heart to become enlarged and weakened, losing the ability to pump blood efficiently through the body. The man’s family is currently suing the manufacturer of the drink for $85 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, hoping to raise awareness of the danger of consuming these drinks.

Current research suggests that the additives found in energy drinks may compound the effects of the already high doses of caffeine, causing individuals to experience adverse side effects. The Radiological Society of North America recently found that energy drinks actually alter the way the heart functions by increasing heart contractions rates within one hour of downing one of the drinks.  Additional energy drink risks and side effects include headaches, anxiety, irregular heartbeats and heart attacks.

An ongoing problem

According to The Drug Abuse Warning Network Report, issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 10,068 emergency room visits were attributed in whole or in part to energy drink consumption in 2007. In 2011, that number doubled to 20,783.  Of these visits, 58 percent or 12,054 visits were due to the use of energy drinks with no other known causal factor and most were from individuals aged 18 to 39.  Despite these numbers, the FDA has failed to issue anything more than guidance on the matter, and energy drink companies continue to deny any kind of product liability in any of these cases.