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Ample concern over energy drinks

Updated: Friday, May 2 2014, 04:18 PM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. – They’re advertised as liquid gold for those needing an energy boost, but energy drinks are at the center of several lawsuits and blamed for allegedly causing death in some cases.

“I stopped drinking them probably my senior year of high school,” said Jessica Leavitt, now attending Monroe Community College. “I just stayed away from them because they affected me like crazy.”

Leavitt used to drink energy drinks daily. A quick burst of energy, it seemed, was just the thing she was looking for, until one day, when she says the drinks provided a scary, and potentially deadly jolt.

“I chugged it, and didn’t really know what happened,” she said, recalling an incident where she became short of breath in class. “The school nurse told me my heart was racing.”

Eventually, her heart rate returned to normal, but subsequent doctor visits would uncover previously un-diagnosed heart palpitations.

It turns out Leavitt’s story is not unique. Energy drinks have been the source of various lawsuits from families who say the drinks have aggravated medical conditions, and in some cases, even death in people as young as 14.

Between 2007 and 2011, hospital visits involving energy drinks doubled to almost 20,800 according to the Drug Abuse Awareness Network.

Dr. Kathleen Miller, PhD., a researcher at the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions, said energy drinks can be dangerous for those with unknown health conditions, especially children and teenagers.

“The caffeine is a diuretic, it dehydrates you, it’s also a vasoconstrictor,” she said. “It constricts the blood, not a good idea.”

Miller also added that energy drink companies usually market their products to the very age group who is most at risk for potential problems.

“Kids and parents,” she continued, “Their parents really don’t know what they’re drinking.”

Contrary to popular belief, energy drinks generally contain less caffeine than a basic cup of coffee, but Miller said the taste of the energy drinks make them more prone to be chugged, creating a potential problem for those with medical problems.

“Some people are more sensitive than others,” she added. “For some with sensitive heart conditions and children, there’s a much lower threshold to do significant damage, and there’s certainly a possibility of people who have died, energy drinks are a significant factor in their death.”

Public concern has prompted some energy drinks to include warnings and caffeine content right on the cans and bottles, but other than that, new regulations are few and far between.

13WHAM News reached out to the makers of various energy drinks, and none have responded to those requests for comment, but the energy drink maker, Monster, did issue a news release in 2013, stating that it has every confidence in the safety of its products, and it added that independent physicians retained by the company say that no medical, scientific or factual evidence shows that the energy drinks contributed to any deaths.


Ample concern over energy drinks

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