May 25, 2010

Are Energy Drinks Hazardous to your health?

I’m sure most of you who study my work know my position on energy drinks, but what you don’t know can literally harm you and can even kill you!

Case in point? My buddy who works for the FDA sent me this article this morning. Read the article by Linda Hurtado about the death of 19 year old Drew James – you might think twice before reaching for those energy drinks!

Well isn’t that interesting . . . I went to put the link in the blog and ABC action news has already deleted the page reporting this outrage today. That’s OK, I was of mind to save the article as pdf this morning so here it is:

Are energy drinks hazardous to your health?
Reported by: Linda Hurtado Email: [email protected]

“He’s 19. You don’t just die. You don’t just die.”
–Cheryl James, Drew’s mother

JACKSONVILLE, FL — Energy drinks are a monster business, according to Beverage Digest, bringing in 6.9 billion dollars in business last year. But are they safe? Adverse reaction reports to the Florida Poison Information Center control in our area have gone up more than 400 percent in one year and one Florida mom says what her son didn’t know about the caffeine content may have contributed to his death.

Cheryl James constantly relives the night her world changed forever. “I told everyone you better hit your knees and you better pray hard. And I was screaming for Drew to fight.”

Her 19 year old son Drew and his friends had been hanging out. Lance Colbert remembers, “We were just standing out there talking and his head went back.”

Jason Mullins was also there. “When he passed out, he fell straight back and started having a mini seizure.”

Cheryl never had a chance to speak to her son again. “He’s 19. You don’t just die. You don’t just die. ”

The medical examiner determined her teenager died of a cardiac arrhythmia due to ischemic cardiomyopathy. Cheryl wanted to know what could have triggered the arrhythmia in such a young man.

At first, mom worried it could have been drugs. But the medical examiner found only traces of a chemical compound found in marijuana in Drew’s blood and urine, along with nicotine and caffeine. “Two days later Jason came over and slammed an energy drink on the table near my computer and said this is what killed Drew. You’ll find out.”

Shocked, this distraught mom took action. Searching the internet, she found articles on other teens that had adverse reactions to energy drinks. She called the ME, who, she says, confirmed her growing suspicion by phone. “He said taking into consideration the amount of caffeine he consumed, I would say caffeine played a large part in your son’s death.”

The ME declined to answer our questions about Drew’s case.

Drew’s friends said he’d only consumed one half of a popular energy drink before he died. Cheryl says the caffeine content wasn’t listed, her son had no idea how much caffeine was in the can.

Energy drinks that are marketed as “dietary supplements” fall under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. “In regular soda’s you have caffeine which is regulated by the FDA because it is considered a food item, not with dietary supplements.”

We asked if that mean companies can put as much caffeine in there as they want. The doctor’s reply, “Yes.” When asked is you could die of caffeine toxicity, he said, “It’s hard to prove someone died of caffeine but you can make the link, yes.”

We questioned the Food and Drug Administration who responded by saying quote “As with any food or supplement, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to make sure the product is safe and properly labeled before being brought to market.” A spokesperson told me they’d only received 9 complaints on “energy drinks” in a 12 month period.

Two medical studies recently investigated the potential dangers of energy drinks including one at Wayne State University. Researchers there said that two cans a day of a popular energy drink increased blood pressure and heart rate in 15 healthy adults.

Our own unscientific study, done with help from Dr. Khan at Pepin Heart Hospital also showed a slight increase in blood pressure and heart rate right after our subjects consumed 2 energy drinks.

Cheryl James says, “I’d like to see the FDA get involved and regulate these drinks. I would like to see warnings on them and an age restriction.”

Cheryl is forwarding e-mails she says she’s received to researchers at Johns Hopkins University who are currently studying the effects of energy drinks on kids, and she forwarded them to us.

Cheryl doesn’t want to take away a person’s right to drink energy drinks, but she does want to make sure the consumer knows what they are putting into their body. “I know from the bottom of my heart, if my son had known there were hidden dangers in something that could be bought over the counter, he would not have abused them like this.”

If you or someone you know has had an adverse reaction to energy drinks, you can contact the researchers at John’s Hopkins through Jenna: 410-550-2687 or [email protected]

We did contact the company that made the energy drink Drew drank before he died. They had no comment. Many of the energy drink companies do list the amount of caffeine in their drinks, or emailed us with the amount when we requested it.

Copyright 2010 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.