"Energy drink consumption has increased rapidly over the past five years, despite increasing evidence of negative immediate and long-term health effects, especially when consumed by youth under 18," says Jennifer Harris, a study author, associate professor-in-residence at UConn, and director of marketing initiatives for the Rudd Center. "Companies say these products are safe to market and sell to children as young as 12, but the evidence says otherwise."
According to the study, there is considerable evidence that energy drinks present a public health threat:
- The number of hospital emergency room visits by 12- to 17-year-olds attributable to energy drink consumption increased from 1,145 in 2007 to 1,499 in 2011. Deaths also have been reported.
- Calls to poison centers related to energy drinks increased from 672 in 2010 to 3,028 in 2013, with 61 percent of the calls concerning children 18 and younger. The reported effects included seizures, delirium, faster than normal heart rate, and irregular heart rhythm – all consistent with caffeine toxicity.
- Energy drink consumption by youth is also associated with sleep disturbances, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and other dangerous behaviors, such as substance abuse, violence, and sexual risk-taking.
The rapid rise in popularity of energy drinks (EDs), particularly, among adolescents (aged 10 - 19 years) and young adults, has serious implications for heart health.
In an article published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, researchers focus on the pharmacology of EDs, adverse reactions to them, and how the marketing of these drinks as a means to relieve fatigue and improve physical and cognitive performance may be ignoring real dangers.
An international research team noted that EDs can trigger sudden cardiac deaths in young, apparently healthy individuals. For persons with underlying heart diseases, the risk of triggering sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) or other arrhythmias can be significant. Even atrial fibrillation (AF), normally uncommon in children without structural heart disease, has been observed in a 13-year-old adolescent boy during a soccer training session after ingesting EDs.
It is estimated that 31% of 12- to 19-year old adolescents regularly consume EDs. These beverages often contain high amounts of labeled caffeine. However, they can contain "masked" caffeine, in the form of guarana, for example, which comes from a Brazilian plant and is identical to caffeine found in coffee beans, but at twice the concentration. The addition of guarana and other substances such as ginseng and taurine in variable quantities may generate uncertain interactions.