The FDA is investigating reports of five deaths and a nonfatal heart attack in people who drank high-caffeine energy drinks made by the Monster Energy Company.
Meanwhile, a Maryland couple has filed a wrongful death suit against the company, alleging that their product killed their 14-year-old daughter. They say Anais Fournier, 14, collapsed after drinking her second 24-ounce Monster Energy drink in two days. She died six days later.
The reports are not proof that the drinks caused the deaths, but merely signal there might be a problem. Even if the deaths are determined to be caused by caffeine poisoning, the FDA will consider all sources of caffeine before blaming the deaths on the energy drink.
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In addition to caffeine, energy drinks contain other stimulants, including taurine and guarana, a caffeine-containing plant.
Because energy drinks are sold as nutritional supplements, they are not regulated as foods. This means they may exceed the FDA-mandated limit of 71 milligrams of caffeine for a 12-ounce soda.
“FDA continues to evaluate the emerging science on a variety of ingredients, including caffeine,” FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said in an email.
The reports aren’t the first health warnings about energy drinks. Last year, the U.S. Drug Abuse Warning Network reported a tenfold spike in emergency-room visits involving energy drinks. In some 70% of cases involving teens ages 12 to 17, the energy-drink itself — not drugs or alcohol — was the main reason for going to the ER.
Last year, researchers at the University of Miami reviewed the health effects of energy drinks on children, teens, and young adults.
Writing in the journal Pediatrics, they concluded that “energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit” and that “these drinks may put some children at risk for serious adverse health effects.”