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FDA looks into possible health risks of energy drinks

December 13, 2012
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WASHINGTON — According to a recently issued incident report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), energy drinks may have caused up to 18 deaths, with Monster and 5-Hour Energy drinks among the alleged culprits.

As a result of the findings from the report the FDA is launching an investigation into the potential dangers that consumption of energy drinks might pose to various demographic groups, including teenagers and people with a history of certain medical conditions. The report stated that the FDA thoroughly investigates every adverse event report and looks into other possible causes of the problem before deciding whether a given product poses a risk to human health.

The regulator noted that 18 cases of death associated with energy drinks have been established since the beginning of 2004. Most of those incidences of “adverse health” (13) have been linked to 5-Hour Energy products but the company denies that its products can be dangerous, if used responsibly. It also stated that its website recommends not more than two bottles per day, consumed at least several hours apart. There were also five incidents associated with Monster but none have been tied to Rockstar or Redbull, the report said.

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Most deaths occurred after a series of symptoms had been detected, including increased heart rate, headaches, nausea and changes in blood pressure, which are all known as side effects of caffeine consumption. A total of 166 incidents were reported in relation to energy drinks, of which 95 were classed as serious, life-threatening or requiring emergency hospitalization.

Energy drinks can contain between 50mg and 500mg of caffeine per serving, which equals up to seven times the amount of caffeine in a can of soda, the Daily Campus of Connecticut reported. Since the products have been available on the market for a relatively short period of time, their effect has not been fully examined. Many of them are sold as dietary supplements and are therefore subject to less stringent regulation than conventional food products under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Because of that, a number of U.S. senators, including Dick Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, have been calling since April this year for the FDA to tighten its grip on energy products.

Writing in a letter to the regulator, Durbin claimed that there was not enough understanding of the effect energy drinks had on health, especially when children and teenagers consume them. He expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the FDA has started to review its approach to energy products but said there is an urgent need for tougher regulation. Durbin called on the FDA to take action to regulate energy drinks that are marketed as beverages.

In response, the FDA stated in a letter that it is vigilant regarding the new products that are being put on the market and is taking steps to get a full understanding of the nature of energy drinks and any potential health risks that they might cause.

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