Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Monday, November 19, 2012

Energy Drinks Linked to Deaths?

I heard a story on NBC Nightly News stating that the FDA is looking into whether 5-Hour Energy Drinks are linked to 13 deaths over the past 4 years. This is not the first time that energy drinks are being investigated by the FDA for safety concerns.  Monster energy drinks are being investigated, as well, to see if they are the cause of 5 deaths.

Note: It is important to realize that just because a product is being investigated in this way does not mean that it is actually responsible for the deaths or injuries! Incident reports like this are filed  with the FDA so that the products can be investigated to determine whether there is a problem or not. 

The main concern with these sort of drinks seems to be the caffeine contained in them. The manufacturer states that one dose of the 5-hour energy drink contains about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. I should note that if you read the label a "dose" is actually half of one of those mini bottles so if you drink the whole thing, you are getting 2 doses with caffeine equivalent to about 2 cups of coffee. Still, this doesn't seem like an extravagant amount of caffeine for a grown adult -especially if he or she is accustomed to consuming caffeinated beverages.

Dr. Sean Nord tells ABC News in this article that if a person drinks multiple shots of this drink, they could get "astronomical amounts" of caffeine equivalent to 30 to 40 cups of coffee which could cause side effects.  Now, to be fair, it seems unlikely that one person would consume 15 to 20 2-oz. bottles at a time - especially at the price of practically $3.00 a bottle! (Although it appears that you can purchase them in 12-packs through Amazon for a much lower price)

A lethal does of caffeine for the average person seems to range from what is contained in 80 to 100 cups of coffee - though this depends on the weight of the individual as well as other factors.  That amount of coffee would translate to 40 to 50 5-hour energy bottles.  Again, an extreme amount for any one person to consume - at least in my opinion.

Now, to be honest, I'm not a consumer of energy drinks of any kind.  I prefer to get my daily caffeine through my numerous cups of coffee throughout the day and I am an unashamed coffee aficionado.  In short, I love my coffee.  I'm unlikely to consider ever purchasing these energy drinks but, as a caffeine consumer, I am skeptical of the demonization of the chemical that I've seen over the years. I still recall hearing about studies that seemed to suggest that caffeine causes cancer, raises cholesteral and causes high blood pressure  before more recent studies came out that seemed to show no connection at all between caffeine and these conditions.  So, I will remain skeptical about claims between caffeine and these deaths unless science proves otherwise!  Your opinion may vary.

In any event, the take-away from this situation should be not to panic but it would be prudent to stop drinking or limit your consumption of these energy drinks if you are concerned until the FDA has time to complete their study. Of course, minors should NOT consume these drinks as they are intended for adults.

Oh!  and while I was conducting research for this post, I came across this bit of dark humor. You choose which caffeine-containing product you want to consume, put in your body weight and it will calculate exactly how much you would have to consume to reach a lethal dose! Enjoy!

Image of a caffeine molecule found here

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