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19-03-2013 | Article

Doctors entreat the FDA to control caffeine in energy drinks


Letter to the FDA

medwireNews: In an evidence-laden letter to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, numerous doctors, physicians and health experts urged the department for "prompt" action to protect children and adolescents from the health dangers posed by highly caffeinated energy drinks.

"Based on our own research and our review of the published literature…we conclude that there is no general consensus among qualified experts that the addition of caffeine in the amounts used in energy drinks is safe," the authors conclude in the letter.

The experts emphasize that caffeine levels in energy drinks are not proven to be safe under the conditions of their intended use, according to the FDA's Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) standards for food additives.

"The best available evidence scientific evidence demonstrates a robust correlation between caffeine levels in energy drinks and adverse health and safety consequences, particularly among children, adolescents, and young adults," the authors note.

Younger individuals are known to have lower tolerance to a given amount of caffeine and have not developed pharmacologic tolerance from regular caffeine consumption. An American Academy of Pediatrics nutrition committee has concluded that caffeine and other stimulant substances in energy drinks "have no place in the diet of children and adolescents."

The letter mentioned a 14-year-old girl who died of cardiac arrhythmia after consuming two 24-oz Monster Energy drinks over 2 consecutive days as an example of how energy drinks have been implicated in numerous deaths as well as adverse reactions.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network has reported that the number of emergency department visits related to energy drinks in the USA doubled between 2007 and 2011, from 10,068 to 20,783.

With regard to cardiovascular complications, the authors listed elevated blood pressure, alteration in heart rate, and severe cardiac events in children and young adults - especially when someone has an underlying cardiovascular disease.

New-onset seizures and youth obesity were also attributed to energy drink consumption.

Through aggressive marketing, energy drinks have caught on among adolescents in particular and sales are expected to reach $ 19.7 billion by 2013. In the meantime, many energy drinks fail to provide their caffeine content in the product labeling.

The report calculated that the most popular energy drinks, such as Monster Energy, contain 160 to 240 mg per 12 oz can, which surpasses even highly caffeinated coffees, and are marketed in a manner that encourages consumers to drink large quantities at once.

By Peter Sergo, medwireNews Reporter