Health risks of energy drinks prompts urge for immediate action

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Energy drinks
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Researchers say high health risks associated with non-alcoholic energy drinks require action from consumers, health care providers and regulatory agencies.

In a commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the scientists say immediate action is needed to protect public health from energy drinks that can be mixed with alcohol and lead to serious consequences.

The scientists from the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Wake Forest University School of Medicine cite the health risks of non-alcoholic energy drinks.

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“Energy drinks have become enmeshed in the subculture of partying,” the paper says. “The practice of mixing energy drinks with alcohol – which is more widespread than generally recognized – has been linked consistently to drinking high volumes of alcohol per drinking session and subsequent serious alcohol-related consequences such as sexual assault and driving while intoxicated." The researchers explain that energy drinks, mixed with alcohol impairs judgment from inability to recognize the effect of alcohol.

University of Maryland School of Public Health researcher Amelia Arria, who directs the Center on Young Adult Health and Development says, “Individuals can still mix these highly caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol on their own. It is also concerning that no regulation exists with regard to the level of caffeine that can be in an energy drink.”

Caffeine also poses high health risks, especially for those who are susceptible. The say the public should be aware of those risks, regardless of beverage choice.

The actions they suggest that could curb the high public health risk of non-alcoholic energy drinks include educating consumers who should take it upon themselves to understand the dangers to health associated with the drinks. Healthcare professionals should warn consumers that mixing energy drinks with alcohol could lead to harm. Lastly, the researchers say non-alcoholic energy drinks should carry strong warnings and full disclosure of the amount of caffeine contained in beverages and mandated by regulatory agencies.

JAMA. Published online January 25, 2011. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.109
“The ‘High’ Risk of Energy Drinks”
Amelia M. Arria, PhD; Mary Claire O’Brien, MD

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