Are the “so-called” Energy Drinks Killing You Slowly?
The sales of energy drinks have grown by 60% over the past five years. One of the reasons that the market for energy drinks has grown so rapidly is the fact that these drinks are being marketed directly to children and adolescence. As the sales of energy drinks have grown, so have concerns for the potential health risks associated with these drinks.
Doctors throughout U.S. are saying that they are seeing many cases where energy drinks pose serious risks of heart arrhythmia, irregular heart palpitations, increased blood pressure and dehydration, gastrointestinal problems, chest pain, dizziness, headache and other health issues in patients as a result of excessive use of energy drinks.
The most common side effect of energy drinks seems to be arrhythmia which refers to a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. Most arrhythmias are harmless, but some can be serious or even life threatening. During an arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart, and other organs.
A report published by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2011, indicated emergency room visits, as result of consuming energy drinks, increased by more than tenfold between 2005 and 2009. The report also concluded that of such visits for emergency medical treatment involving consumption of energy drinks, 11% were made by youths aged 12 to 17 and 45% were made by young adults aged 18 to 25. Subsequent to the findings of this report, and concerns expressed by doctors and other medical professionals, the American Medical Association at their annual policy meeting in June 2013 adopted a resolution calling for a ban on marketing energy drinks to anyone under the age of 18.
In 2005 there were about 1,100 emergency room visits in the U.S. related to energy drinks; in 2008 there were more than 16,000 visits. The numbers continue to rise. Energy drinks are especially dangerous for children and adolescents. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends energy drinks should never be consumed by children or adolescents.
The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee (Science and Transportation) held a meeting on July 31st, 2013 regarding the potential risks associated with kids drinking energy drinks and the marketing practices of the major energy drink companies deliberately targeting children with advertising that may be regarded as irresponsible and dangerous.
Here are the highlights of the speech made by Senator Dick Durbin at the Senate Commerce Committee examining the potential health risks of energy drinks and the marketing of these products to children:
- Scientific studies have concluded that consuming large amounts of caffeine can have serious health risks, such as seizures, heart arrhythmias, and in some cases death.
- A recent article in American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) journal said, “given the unknown levels of caffeine and other poorly studied additives [in energy drinks], there is significant risk associated with energy drink consumption that may outweigh the benefits in the adolescent consumer.”
- Warnings from AAP are shown in a recent SAMHSA report, which found that between 2007 and 2011, emergency room visits related to the consumption of energy drinks doubled from 10,068 to 20,793. In the first 6 months of this year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers have already received 1,575 reports related to energy drinks and 988 of those reports --over half --involved children 18 and younger.
- Energy drink companies have very powerful marketing techniques and they sponsor athletes as young as 10 years old, and have lots of young fans and sport events to attack young audience. They also try to reach a highly targeted young audience by promoting video games on their websites, social media, flashy ads, and claims that energy drink can increase attention, stamina, and help with hydration and building muscle.
- According to a 2011 study, 35% of 8th graders recently consumed energy drinks and 18% drank one or more energy drinks per a day. These companies use pictures of kids as young as 7 in their website and facebook page promoting energy drinks under different events for identifying talented athletes. So, it’s very hard to believe that Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar do not market to children when images like this show active campaigning to introduce their brand to children and adolescents.
It is interesting to watch the Senate meeting and listen to all the excuses made by energy drink companies for deceptive advertising and marketing their drinks to children.
For example, Sen. Edward Markey says that Red Bull testimony of the company is quote “committed to promote active and healthy lifestyle choices” but on Instagram feed, Red Bull suggests that people should take a sleeping pill, wash down with a can of Red Bull and then "let the battle begin”.
Red Bull representative, Ms Taylor (marketing VP and probably the brain of the company) answers that this ad is against Red Bull’s commitment and will be addressed right away. However, as you watch more, you begin to admire the wit and intelligence of Ms Taylor, since she knows how to manipulate and twist every answer; she definitely earns every dime that she makes in Red Bull Company.
But here is one of my favorite excuses among all the claims that were made by energy drink companies:
In regards to a picture of group of kids holding Rockstar drinks, Rockstar representative, Ms Janet Weiner (Chief Financial and Operating Officer Rockstar Beverage Company) says “what we mean by the word Rockstar is someone who is very successful in life and is a winner. When we do well in our company we say that you are such a Rock Star! Meaning that you’ve done a great job”. She also insists that despite the picture of kids holding Rockstar drink, her company is not promoting RockStar to kids and in fact, RockStar is promoting a healthy life style by reminding young people that they should stay from dangerous things and they should be physical, eat well, exercise and be engaged in physical sports.
Interestingly, Ms Janet Weiner feels that energy drinks are being demonized unfairly:
Ms Weiner mentions that it’s very important for the Senate committee to understand that the largest intake of caffeine by teenagers is not coming from energy drinks, therefore she feels that her company has been unfairly accused and being demonized for unfair reasons.
However, Ms Wiener fails to mention that there are other ingredients such as large amount of sugar, guarana, taurine, ginseng, and B vitamins in energy drinks that make caffeine even more potent and harmful. Click here to find more about all the top 13 Ingredients in energy drinks. In fact, the combination of all these stimulants including caffeine have made energy drinks so toxic that last year, a teenage girl died after consuming two energy drinks from caffeine toxicity. http://www.today.com/health/teen-girl-dies-caffeine-toxicity-after-downing-2-energy-drinks-506441
It’s hypocritical of Energy drink companies to feel demonized for just being questioned about their unethical marketing tactics and the fact that these toxic drinks are being commonly advertised to young children and are easily found in grocery stores, vending machines, and convenience stores.
The deceptive marketing ads of these companies promise increase attention, stamina, performance, and weight loss. However, the scientific studies show that these drinks are very toxic and do the exact opposite as the energy drink companies claim:
Let’s take a look at some of the scientific studies and see if energy drinks are being demonized unfairly:
>> No effect on cognitive performance: Studies show that energy drinks have no positive effect on cognitive performances such as concentration and reasoning.
>> No effect on athlete performance or body building: Another study shows that Red Bull Energy Drink has no Effect on Upper Body Strength and Muscular Endurance in Resistance Trained Men. A study conducted by Utah State University and determined that a low-calorie caffeine-taurine energy drink did NOT enhance the sprint performance and anaerobic power.
>> Toxicity of energy drinks: A study performed by Oxford Health NHS Foundation shows that caffeine in energy drinks can raise blood pressure, cause anxiety, panic attacks, psychosis, and mania. Another study by University of Massachusetts Department of Emergency Medicine shows that large consumption of caffeine in energy drinks can lead to seizures, vomiting, heart palpitation and even death.
>> Caffeine toxicity: A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows that caffeine toxicity from energy drink consumption is increasing among adolescence. Another study shows that Energy drinks that contain harmful ingredients such as high levels of caffeine and sugar are emerging as a public health threat and are increasingly consumed by youth globally.
>> Death: Studies show, in addition to energy drinks posing a serious threat to your health, they also can cause heart arrhythmia and even death. Here is the story of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who died of cardiac arrythmia due to caffeine toxicity, after she drank two 24-ounce Monster Energy drinks in a 24-hour period. In fact, since 2004, Monster Energy Drink has been related to 5 other similar incidents that have resulted in death.
>> Anxiety and damage to central nervous system: According to K. Steven Whiting, Ph.D., of Phoenix Nutritionals in San Diego and author of "Healthy Living Made Easy", ‘large consumption of caffeine combined with other stimulants like ginseng in energy drinks can target the central nervous system and cause dehydration and loss of water-soluble nutrients that have a calming effect on the nervous system’. Long-term consumption of energy drinks can also cause anxiety issues, agitation and sleeping problems.
>> Unsafe Work places: A study by University of Louisiana at Lafayette shows that the mental and physical effects of energy drinks such as altered sleep patterns and arrhythmias could cause safely issues in workplaces (such as construction work or health care fields).