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Caffeine Experts Call for Warning Labels for Energy Drinks

energy drinks, caffeine, coffee, soda, energyScientists who have spent decades researching the effects of caffeine have stated that a slew of caffeinated energy drinks now on the market should carry prominent labels that note caffeine doses and warn of potential health risks for consumers.

Some energy drinks contain the equivalent caffeine of 14 cans of Coca-Cola, yet the amounts are often unlabeled, and few include warnings about the potential health risks of caffeine intoxication.

Caffeine intoxication is marked by nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, gastrointestinal upset, tremors, rapid heartbeats (tachycardia), psychomotor agitation (restlessness and pacing) and in rare cases, death.

A regular 12-ounce cola drink has about 35 milligrams of caffeine, and a 6-ounce cup of brewed coffee has 80 to 150 milligrams of caffeine. But because many energy drinks are marketed as "dietary supplements," the limit that the FDA requires for soft drinks does not apply. The caffeine content of energy drinks varies from 50 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The U.S. market for energy drinks was a whopping $5.4 billion in 2006. Since its inception in the late 80’s, the energy drink market has grown exponentially, increasing at a rate of 47 percent per year in the U.S., and 55 percent worldwide.  

Nearly 500 new brands were launched worldwide in 2006, and 200 new energy drinks hit the U.S. market in the 12-month period ending July 2007 alone, overtaking bottled water as the fastest-growing category in the beverage business. 

This is in large part due to highly successful marketing to teenagers and young adults, satisfying their craving for speed, stamina, and “boundless energy.” 

But like all quick health fixes, energy drinks come at a price, which in some cases have included death. 

What is Caffeine Intoxication? 

If you’ve never heard of caffeine intoxication, you’re not alone. It’s not often discussed, as most people won’t consume coffee or soda in amounts high enough, or quickly enough, to suffer an acute effect. But when you consider that some energy drinks contain the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee in one can, you realize how you could easily consume the equivalent of a couple of pots of coffee in very short order. 

Among the worst offenders, in terms of caffeine overload, are: 

  • SPIKE Shooter – 35.7mg/oz (16 oz = 570 mg)
  • Cocaine Energy Drink – 33.3 mg/oz (16 oz = 533 mg)
  • Redline RTD – 31.3 mg/oz (16 oz = 501 mg)
  • Blow (energy drink mix) – 30 mg/oz (16 oz = 480 mg)
  • Fixx – 25 mg/oz (16 oz = 400 mg) 

Some energy drinks are so high in caffeine they’re served in 1 to 2 ounce “shots.”

Ammo, for example, contains 171 mg, served in a one ounce can. RedLine Power Rush, which comes in a 2.5 oz can, contains 140 mg/oz, giving you the equivalent of about three and a half cups of coffee in one swig.

The symptoms of caffeine intoxication mimic those of anxiety and other mood disorders, and include:

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Tremors
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Psychomotor agitation (restlessness and pacing)
  • In rare cases: death

The Caffeine in Energy Drinks Does Not Necessarily Equate to Plain Coffee

Needless to say, the effects of drinking an energy drink will be similar to that of drinking a cup or three of coffee, in that when the effect wears off you'll start feeling lethargic and will likely crave another can (or cup) to boost your energy once again.

As many of you likely know, it can become a vicious cycle of jolting and crashing.

However, a problem related specifically to energy drinks is that no one really knows the net effect of chugging energy drinks like you would coffee. Coffee has caffeine, yes, but it does not contain all those other artificial and energy-boosting ingredients that energy drinks contain.

The synergistic effect of ingesting multiple agents in combination can have a vastly different impact compared to each ingredient by itself. And caffeine, in and of itself, already has its disadvantages.

For example, drinking plain coffee on a regular basis may increase your risk of deadly diseases such as stomach cancer and leukemia. And, pregnant women should definitely not consume caffeine.  There is a substantial amount of research showing that it clearly increases their risk of spontaneous abortion.

Caffeine also has other well-documented problems.

For instance, it may interfere with your body's ability to keep homocysteine and cholesterol levels in check, most likely by inhibiting the action of the vitamins folate, B12 and/or B6. Additionally, coffee has been previously associated with an increased risk of stroke and rheumatoid arthritis.

Are You in a High-Risk Category That Should Avoid Energy Drinks?

It is fairly self-evident that children should never consume these kinds of drinks, but due to the detrimental health impact of their contents, it would definitely be wise to avoid energy drinks if you:

  • Are pregnant or lactating
  • Are sensitive to caffeine
  • Suffer from anxiety
  • Suffer from high stress
  • Suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are predisposed to cardiovascular disease
  • Have any kind of blood clotting disorder

Researchers have previously stated that energy drinks can be deadly when combined with stress or high blood pressure, as it can impair proper blood vessel function and raise your risk of blood clots and stroke.

How to Raise Your Energy Levels – No Caffeine Required

If you’re drinking energy drinks for the reason most people do -- to get more energy – know that there are far superior options than artificial energy drinks containing enough caffeine to keep a squadron awake.

Humans are not naturally sluggish or constantly tired -- especially not teenagers in the prime of life!

This lethargic state is much more likely brought on by inappropriate lifestyle choices, such as:

  • Poor food choices
  • Low-quality food
  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Negative emotions
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of exercise

Increasing your energy levels then, is as easy as remedying these factors by:

For more details, my book Take Control of Your Health, is THE tool that will really help you regain your energy, once and for all. You can also check out my nutrition plan to get started right now, today.