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Hospitalizations from Energy Drinks Continue to Rise

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Growing popularity means thousands more trips to the ER and reports of deaths.

caffeine, energy drinks, health, deaths

Historical accounts tell us that the stimulating power of caffeine was first noticed in the 9th century by an Ethiopian goatherd who found his flock wildly excited after consuming coffee berries. Whoever he was, a substantial portion from the efforts of human progress since remains indebted to that discovery.

Caffeine continues to be one of the most frequently ingested pharmacological substances on the planet. According to US Food and Drug Administration, 80% of adults in the U.S. consume some form of caffeine every day.

The standards of caffeine safety are rather difficult. Scientists have established the toxic dose to be somewhere around 10 g, but that figure can vary from person to person. Caffeine is cleared from the human body at different rates due to of genetic variations, gender, and whether a person is a smoker or not.

In 2007, motocross racer Matthew Penbross began his day by starting to drink Red Bull Energy Drinks, just after waking up. The 28 year-old motocross racer wanted to give himself a competitive edge by increasing his reaction speed at the starting line. Eventually, he drank 7 or 8 Red Bulls over a seven-hour period and 20 minutes after he crossed the finish line after his last race, his heart stopped.

Penbross reported no family history of heart disease. The doctors who treated his collapse at the hospital concluded that the excessive amount of caffeinated energy drinks he consumed was the likely cause.

energy drinks, hospitalization, health

According to a figures released in January 2013 by the U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, the annual number of emergency room visits linked to energy drinks increased to 20,000 in 2011, up 36% from the year before.

The US Food and Drug Administration recently started investigations into five deaths associated with Monster Energy drinks and 13 others linked to 5-Hour Energy shots.

‘People often don’t understand the potential risk of these beverages,’ said Bruce A. Goldberger, director of forensic toxicology at the University of Florida’s pathology labs.

A 2003 study, conducted by a research team at Health Canada, a government regulatory agency, compared 200+ studies concerning caffeine’s impact on the human body. Based on their findings, the team arrived at the conclusion that 400 mg of caffeine daily (or about three 8-oz cups of brewed coffee) is a safe dose for healthy adults to ingest.

The effects of the substance vary from person to person, depending on a variety of circumstances. Fifty percent of the caffeine a person takes in gets cleared from the body in approximately five hours. Studies have shown this rate to vary depending on other chemicals in the body. Women taking oral contraceptives process caffeine slower than those not on a contraceptive pill, and people who smoke break it down faster than those who don’t.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Caffeine Jitters, Chemical and Engineering News
Citation: Nawrot P, Jordan S, Eastwood J, Rotstein J, Hugenholtz A, & Feeley M (2003) Effects of Caffeine on Human Health Food Additives and Contaminants, 20 (1), 1-30 DOI: 10.1080/0265203021000007840

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