Energy Drinks – Are They Dangerous?

The American energy drink industry generated $12.5 billion in 2014, and that number is expected to balloon to $20 billion by 2017. Unfortunately, as energy drinks’ popularity has soared in this country, so have emergency room visits involving their consumption. The number of these visits more than doubled between 2007 and 2011—from 10,064 in 2007 to 20,783 in 2011. (Contrary to popular opinion, 56% of these cases did not involve drugs or alcohol, only energy drinks.)

More recently, a 2015 study by the International Journal of Cardiology found a strong correlation between energy drinks and patients with heart palpitations. These patients were deemed otherwise healthy and not at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, patients who consumed two or more energy drinks a day had a significantly higher occurrence of heart palpitations and chest pain.

The study above echoes a November 2015 study by the American Heart Association, which showed that drinking a single 16-ounce energy drink raises blood pressure and doubles stress hormones in young, healthy adults.

These drinks can be lethal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has linked five deaths to Monster Energy, and 13 deaths to 5-Hour Energy. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has linked 34 fatalities to energy drinks since 2004, with half of those occurring in just the past few years. Of these 34 deaths:

  • 22 involved 5-Hour Energy
  • 11 involved Monster
  • 1 involved Rockstar

 

In 2011, a 14-year-old girl named Anais Fournier died after drinking two 24-ounce Monster Energy drinks and going into cardiac arrest. The official cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.” In 2013, 19-year-old Alex Morris—who drank two cans of Monster a day—went into cardiac arrest and died of “cardiac arrhythmia.

After the deaths of Fournier and Morris, doctors and lawmakers pushed for more transparency and regulation of the energy drink industry. Monster and other drink manufacturers eventually agreed to disclose their ingredients and add labels displaying the quantity of caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants. 

But although the FDA issued a set of industry guidances in 2014, it does not require energy drink companies (or anyone else) to disclose how much caffeine is in their products because dietary information is only required for nutrients, while caffeine is a “natural chemical.” This allows energy drinks to conceal or undersell their caffeine content—legally. Most of these labels don’t take into account the caffeine contained in guarana, a South American plant that is two-to-five times stronger than a coffee bean in terms of caffeine, or other botanical extracts whose long-term effects remain a mystery to scientists.

Monster energy tries to hide behind it’s large marketing budget and superior PR. Their trade shows and corporate events are used to train the upper echelons of their management to handle situations regarding ill effects from consumption.

Earlier this week, Orlando-based law firm Morgan & Morgan filed suit against Monster Energy drinks, arguing that Monster targets children and doesn’t include sufficient information or warnings on its labels. Attorney Mike Morgan explained, “If the consumer can make a knowledgeable choice, that’s OK. That’s on them. But when you hide information… that’s on the company to do something.”

Mr. Morgan vowed that this is the first of many suits against beverage powerhouses like Red Bull, Rockstar, and 5-Hour Energy, and encouraged all 

victims and opponents of energy drinks to join the lawsuit at energydrinkslawsuit.com.