Energy drinks should have caffeine warning, study

by Staff
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BALTIMORE — Researchers at John Hopkins who have examined the effects of caffeine are recommending caffeinated energy drinks should carry prominent labels noting caffeine doses and warn of potential health risks. The study appears in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

"The caffeine content of energy drinks varies over a 10-fold range with some containing the equivalent of 14 cans of Coca-Cola, yet the caffeine amounts are often unlabeled and few include warnings about the potential health risks of caffeine intoxication," said Roland Griffiths, one of the authors of the study.

U.S. poison control centers have reported bad reactions to energy drinks. A 2007 survey of 496 college students found 51% of the students had at least one energy drink in the last month. Of those who had consumed energy drinks, 29% suffered from "weekly jolt-and-crash episodes," and 19% had heart palpitations from energy drinks. In addition, 27% of the students mixed energy drinks with alcohol in the last month.

"Alcohol adds another level of danger because caffeine in high doses can give users a false sense of alertness that provides incentive to drive a car or in other ways put themselves in danger," Mr. Griffiths said.

Caffeine content in energy drinks ranges from 50 mg to more than 500 mg. In contrast, a 12-oz cola drink has about 35 mg of caffeine, and a 6-oz cup of brewed coffee has 80 mg to 150 mg.

A 2008 study of college students found energy drink consumption is a predictor of subsequent non-medical prescription stimulant use. This leads to the concern that energy drinks might serve as gateway or introductory products to more serious forms of drug abuse. Some names of energy drinks even make references to illegal drugs.

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