Highly-caffeinated energy drinks – even those containing no alcohol – may pose a significant threat to individuals and public health.
A study was conducted to review the effects, adverse consequences, and extent of energy-drink consumption among children, adolescents, and young adults by Sara M. Seifert, BS, Judith L. Schaechter, MD,Eugene R. Hershorin, MD,Steven E. Lipshultz, MD, Department of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Integrative Medicine Program, University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
According to self-report surveys, energy drinks are consumed by 30% to 50% of adolescents and young adults. Frequently containing high and unregulated amounts of caffeine, these drinks have been reported in association with serious adverse effects, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavioral disorders or those who take certain medications. Of the 5448 US caffeine overdoses reported in 2007, 46% occurred in those younger than 19 years. Several countries and states have debated or restricted their sales and advertising.
The report concludes energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated. The known and unknown pharmacology of agents included in such drinks, combined with reports of toxicity, raises concern for potentially serious adverse effects in association with energy-drink use.
In the short-term, pediatricians need to be aware of the possible effects of energy drinks in vulnerable populations and screen for consumption to educate families. Long-term research should aim to understand the effects in at-risk populations. Toxicity surveillance should be improved, and regulations of energy-drink sales and consumption should be based on appropriate research.