Non-Alcoholic Energy Drinks May Pose 'High' Health
Risks, Experts Argue
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energy drinks -- even those containing no alcohol -- may pose a
significant threat to individuals and public health, say researchers at
the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Wake Forest
University School of Medicine.
In a new online commentary in the Journal of
American Medical Association (JAMA), they recommend immediate consumer
action, education by health providers, voluntary disclosures by
manufacturers and new federal labeling requirements.
"Recent action to make pre-mixed alcoholic
drinks unavailable was an important first step, but more continued
action is needed," says University of Maryland School of Public Health
researcher Amelia Arria, who directs the Center on Young Adult Health
and Development. "Individuals can still mix these highly caffeinated
energy drinks with alcohol on their own. It is also concerning that no
regulation exists with regard to the level of caffeine that can be in
an energy drink."
Arria and co-author Mary Claire O'Brien,
professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University School of
Medicine, alerted various state attorneys general to the risks of
alcoholic energy drinks starting in 2009, steps that culminated last
November in actions against Four Loko and similar products by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.
The JAMA paper cites three public health
surrounding all packaged energy drinks with moderate to high levels of
- Consumers often mix alcohol and
"Energy drinks have become enmeshed in the subculture of partying," the
paper says. "The practice of mixing energy drinks with alcohol -- which
is more widespread than generally recognized -- has been linked
consistently to drinking high volumes of alcohol per drinking session
and subsequent serious alcohol-related consequences such as sexual
assault and driving while intoxicated....Research has demonstrated that
individuals who combine energy drinks with alcohol underestimate their
true level of impairment."
- Caffeine can have adverse health
effects in susceptible individuals:
"Therefore continued public health awareness regarding high levels of
caffeine consumption, no matter what the beverage source, in sensitive
individuals is certainly warranted," the researchers write.
- Energy drink use appears to be
associated with alcohol dependence and other drug use:
More research is needed to clarify the possible mechanisms underlying
the associations that have been observed in research studies.
The commentary recommends several "proactive
steps to protect public health:"
- Health care professions should inform
their patients of the risks of consuming highly caffeinated energy
- Individuals should educate themselves
about those risks;
- Manufacturers should warn consumers about
the risks of mixing their products with alcohol;
- Regulatory agencies should require energy
manufacturers to disclose caffeine content and appropriate warnings
about the risks on the labels.
For more information on the University of
Maryland, visit www.umd.edu.