Caffeine, hands down, is the most popular, legal and widely abused drug on the planet. It’s in everything including: caffeinated snacks; soft drinks; alcoholic beverages; over the counter supplements; not to mention popular face cream and products that boast a remedy for cellulite. Caffeine is legal, but even too much of a good thing can cause harm. Perhaps the fastest growing new line of caffeine containing products is energy drinks. Blogger and author of “Nutrition for Dummies”, Carol Ann Rinzler, examined the labels of the top three energy drinks.
The labels simply don’t deliver all the facts. For example, while all list caffeine as an ingredient, and most tell you exactly how much caffeine is in the drink, they also list guarana, a caffeine source, as a separate ingredient but don’t tell how much caffeine one gets from the guarana.’
It is virtually impossible to determine the caffeine content, to stay within the recommended maximum daily intake 250mg per day.
“Caffeine overdose can cause nausea, diarrhea, light-headedness and urinary frequency. Caffeine withdrawal even after moderate chronic intake may be associated with headache, nausea, nervousness, reduced alertness and depressed mood. Symptoms are most acute in the first 20-48 hours but they may persist for as long as seven days.”
With promises of weight loss and increased endurance; hundreds of new products including the very popular Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar; “make up a $3.4 billion-a-year industry that grew by 80 percent last year” A pediatrician and nutrition expert at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York, Dr. Sandra Braganza, is worried about “the potential for accidents and alcohol poisoning” As she prepared to write an article about energy drinks for a pediatrics journal, she was surprised how little published research she could find on them. “The truth is, we don’t know what kind of effects these ingredients can have,” Braganza said of taurine, glucuronolactone and guarana. “We have to start doing more studies on this.”
CBS Associated Press recently reported that even after “Twenty-five states asked beverage maker Miller-Coors LLC on Wednesday to abandon plans for a new caffeine-infused alcoholic energy drink, Red Sparks; citing the product” a “recipe for disaster”, because adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages reduces drinkers’ sense of intoxication.”
These drinks target young drinkers who are especially vulnerable because of their limited judgment and risky behaviors in driving and other activities. Julian Green, Miller-Coors spokesman responded “the company still plans to release the drink on Oct. 1” and that “the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, has approved all formulas and labeling for Sparks.
Last week the Center for Science in the Public responded stating that “Miller-Coors decision to introduce Sparks Red defies increasing undeniable evidence from medical and public health professionals about the dangers of mixing alcohol with stimulants found in energy drinks”
In a separate lawsuit “St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch said it would reformulate its brands “Tilt” and “Bud Extra” to remove the stimulants they contain as part of a settlement with 11 attorneys general”.
“Young people are taking caffeine to stay awake, or perhaps to get high, and many of them are ending up in the emergency department,” said Dr. Danielle McCarthy of Northwestern University, who conducted the study “Caffeine is a drug and should be treated with caution, as any drug is.”
Parents should think twice before sending their children out the door with an energy drink, said Molly Morgan, a dietitian in upstate New York who consults with schools and talks to students, parents and coaches about energy drinks.
“My message to parents is moderation,” Morgan said.”That means one can a day or less, and view it as a treat, not part of a daily routine.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been pushing for “mandatory caffeine labeling” as well as “more responsible marketing of such products”. No plans are on the horizon presently for any regulation by the FDA.