The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

97° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Study: energy drinks pose risk

Energy drinks packed with caffeine and sugar may pose serious health risks to users, especially children, adolescents and young adults, according to a study by the University of Miami School of Medicine published Monday in the online version of Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The study, co-authored by Dr. Steven Lipshultz, chief of pediatrics at the UM Medical School, says the drinks “”have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated.””

An 8-ounce can of Rockstar energy drink has twice the caffeine of a 14-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, the study notes.

The energy drink industry disputes the study’s findings: “”This literature review does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation about energy drinks, their ingredients and the regulatory process,”” said Dr. Maureen Storey, in an emailed response.

According to Lipshultz, the drinks pose special risks for children with diabetes, ADHD, undiagnosed heart problems and other problems.

“”Kids with diabetes are not really counseled about what’s in these drinks, and they could end up with very serious problems from sugar and caffeine,”” he said.

For rehydrating after sports, he said, “”drinks like Gatorade are probably OK. It’s not clear that parents or children differentiate between Gatorade and energy drinks like Red Bull.””

Another group at risk is the 8 to 12 percent of youths with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) who may try energy drinks even though they’re already on stimulants such as Ritalin to improve school performance, the study says.

“”They’re not aware that the effects of a stimulant atop a stimulant may not be desirable,”” Lipshultz said.

The study, a review of 121 scientific and other reports on energy drinks, says that, despite warnings, young children are increasingly trying energy drinks. It cites a study in The British Medical Journal that says energy drinks are regularly consumed by 28 percent of 12-to-14-year-olds, 31 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds and 34 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds.

And a survey by the American Association of Poison Control Centers said 24 percent of cases of caffeine toxicity were in children 6 to 19, Shultz said. The study did not differentiate between caffeine from energy drinks and from other sources, he said.

That finding, Storey said, “”misinterprets the data”” from the poison control centers. She said the data referred to “”pharmaceutical exposures”” such as over-the-counter caffeine pills, not exposure to caffeine from foods or beverages.

“”Most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee,”” she said.

A Red Bull spokesman, in an e-mailed response to the study, added that because “”an 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (80mg), it should be treated accordingly.””

Unlike colas, said Lipshultz, energy drinks do not have a limit on how much caffeine they can contain.

He urged pediatricians to ask questions about energy drink use among young patients, especially athletes, children with seizures, diabetes, hypertension, cardiac abnormalities and sleep disturbances.

The study calls for more long-term research into the effects of energy drink ingredients — such as taurine, a widely used antioxidant, and guarana, an herbal source of caffeine — combined with caffeine.

Lipshultz called his study a “”systematic review of the literature,”” in which he and other researchers, rather than doing original research, examined 121 other sources of information – a routine method for some scientific studies. In the review, he used scientific articles published in peer-reviewed professional journals as well as government reports and newspaper stories including articles from The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

Lipshultz says he based the study’s critical findings on the peer-reviewed studies, and included the newspaper articles “”to add anecdotal evidence.”” He pointed out that his study has been accepted for publication in Pediatrics.

Read more:

More to Discover
Activate Search