Multiple Studies Find Risks in Energy Drinks But Restaurants Still Plan on Offering the Drinks

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The energy drink business is and has been booming for more than a decade. Aside from the large corporate players in the energy drink arena, selling energy drinks is a popular idea for people considering starting their own small business venture. Furthermore, sales of energy drinks are slated to expand even further as the Wall Street Journal reports that McDonald’s is currently piloting the sales of energy beverages in five states. While the drinks are already available at certain restaurants including Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., offering the beverages at all McDonald’s restaurants would significantly expand the availability of the beverages.

However, consumer demand is largely based on the premise that energy drinks are no more dangerous than a simple cup of coffee. Unfortunately, recent studies have found that the risks in consuming energy drinks might be greater than expected.

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JAMA Study Finds that 1 Energy Drink Can Increase the Risk of Heart Issues

A Randomized Trial of Cardiovascular Responses to Energy Drink Consumption in Healthy Adults, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on November 17, 2015, made some troubling findings regarding the impact of energy drinks on the body. The study found that drinking popular energy drink products cause elevated physical signs in the body. Observed physiological changes include:

  • Increase in norepinephrine levels (stress hormone)
  • Increased blood-caffeine levels
  • Increased average blood pressure
  • Increased systolic blood pressure
  • Increased diastolic blood pressure
  • Increase in heart rate

These effects were present regardless of whether the individual was at rest or mentally or physically active. The authors of the study believe that “these hemodynamic changes are associated with sympathetic activation, which could predispose to increased cardiovascular risk.”

The study was conducted as a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. After conducting tests to get baseline physiological findings, the study administrators provided healthy, non-smoker volunteers with an actual energy drink or a placebo that was indistinguishable from the energy beverage. Each participant consumed either one 16 oz. commercially available energy drink or one 16 oz. serving of the placebo within five minutes.

The study results at least raise the possibility that heart conditions could result from frequent use of the beverages or that pre-existing conditions could be triggered. Potential conditions caused or made more likely through energy drink consumption could include:

  • Heart attack
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Caffeine poisoning
  • Death

These are only a few of the conditions that may be made more likely due to energy drink consumption. Researchers have also found a connection between the consumption of energy drinks and the incidence of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among adolescents. While the study does find an association between energy drink usage and TBIs in teens, the authors caution that more study into this association is required.

Reports of Injuries and Hospitalizations after Energy Drink Consumption Common in Children

Since 2004, the FDA has received about 300 adverse event reports allegedly due to energy drink consumption. These 300 reports included details about 31 cases where severe cardiac distress occurred or where death resulted. Nearly half of these 300 reports have been filed since 2012. This is perhaps no surprise as the American Medical Association announced in 2013 that high levels of caffeine may result in heart problems. The AMA report called for banning the sale of these drinks to minors under the age of 18.

This approach to energy drinks may be justified. An American Heart Association 2014 survey of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System found that out of more than 5,000 calls regarding energy drinks, 40 percent were made regarding a child under the age of six who consumed the drink. This effect is not uncommon as a child’s body is smaller than that of an adult and the child’s decreased body weight makes him or her more susceptible to the effects. Furthermore, a child’s body is still developing meaning that they are likely to be affected by the beverage long before an adult would feel the effects. Children with pre-existing health conditions are even more likely to be affected by energy drink consumption.

Many energy drink companies already sponsor youth tournaments and youth sporting events. But, in light of children’s sensitivity to caffeine and energy drinks and McDonald’s decision to pilot test offering beverages of this type, it will be interesting to see whether this increase in availability to children will result in further spikes of cardiovascular and other injuries.

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Have You or A Loved One Suffered a Heart Attack or Other Injury from an Energy Drink?

Unfortunately, there have been a number of reports of individuals suffering cardiovascular events, including heart attack and death, after consuming popular energy drinks. The experienced personal injury attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm are dedicated to standing up for injured Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians to hold the responsible party accountable. To schedule a free and confidential energy drink injury or wrongful death consultation call our law firm at (215) 246-9000.

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