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Energy Drink Side Effects FAQ

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks refer to a beverage that typically contains caffeine and carbohydrates as the main ingredients and marketed to the consumer as an easy way of relieving fatigue and improving physical performance. Their purpose is to give an energy boost. The term “energy drink” is not recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

What other ingredients are found in energy drinks?

Besides caffeine and carbohydrates, energy drinks generally contain B-vitamins, minerals and herb extracts, and supplements including guarana (containing guaranine, similar to caffeine), taurine (an amino acid), and other sugar derivatives.

Are there any health benefits for athletes in these supplements?

Any “performance enhancing” effects of herbs such as Astragalus, Echinacea, Ginkgo biloba and many others have not been established by scientific studies. Rather, many energy drinks touting the benefits in fact do not contain ingredients such as ginkgo biloba - which has led to false advertising lawsuits. As for protein and amino acids, again there is no evidence to support performance claims. And protein is found less expensively in food.

What is the difference between an energy drink and a sports drink?

Sports drinks contain less carbohydrates than energy drinks and usually no caffeine. Instead they contain electrolytes and other supplements designed to provide rehydration during or after athletic activity, and allow maximal absorption of the fluid by the gastrointestinal tract. Energy drinks, on the other hand, do not rehydrate during activity.

Which energy drink contents are harmful?

The major health concern regarding energy drinks is their high caffeine content, which can lead to rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure, according to The American Heart Association. Individuals with high blood pressure and/or history of heart attack or stroke might be at risk. Due to high sugar levels, energy drinks can lead to problems related to excessive weight gain. And because there is little, if any, regulation on nutritional supplements - and energy drinks fall into this category - contents may contain banned substances.

The stimulant Dimethylamylamine (DMAA) has also been found in some brands. The FDA in 2013 warned consumers to stay away from energy drinks and dietary supplements that include DMAA, which has been compared to an amphetamine. Dr. Pieter Cohen, an internist at the Cambridge Health Alliance and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, has called for a ban on the substance.

Have any energy drink deaths and hospitalizations occurred?

Yes. The parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier filed the first wrongful death lawsuit against Monster Energy. A second wrongful death Monster Energy lawsuit was brought by the family of 19-year-old Alex Morris, who suffered a cardiac arrest and died in 2012.

As of 2013, the FDA’s adverse event reports linked five potential deaths, one non-fatal heart attack and numerous hospitalizations to Monster energy drinks.

Have any studies found evidence of harmful energy drink side effects?

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), a public health surveillance system run by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), referred to energy drinks in 2013 as “a continuing public health concern” due to high levels of caffeine. The report said that “scientific evidence documents harmful health effects of energy drinks, particularly for children.” DAWN further reported that emergency room visits related to energy drinks doubled from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,738 visits in 2011. Likely thousands more incidents are not reported.

A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology (3/26/15), analyzed data on the use of energy drinks in adolescents (aged 10-19 years) and young adults. The research team determined that energy drinks can trigger sudden cardiac deaths in young (and often healthy) individuals. And young people with underlying heart disease are more at risk: energy drinks can trigger sudden arrhythmic death syndrome or other arrhythmias.

Another study by Wayne State University and DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan suggests that energy drinks can potentially be dangerous, and sometimes deadly. The study included almost 5,000 incident reports to emergency rooms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a clinical statement advising all pediatricians that children should not consume energy drinks. And in 2013, eighteen high-profile medical doctors and scientists wrote a letter to the FDA urging them to take immediate steps to protect children and adolescents from the dangers of energy drinks.

What energy drinks are attorneys investigating?

Back in 2010, lawsuits were filed against FRS energy drink for false advertising claims and billing practices. Since that time, Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Monster and Rockstar brands have been linked to FDA adverse event reports.

An investigation into Monster Energy’s ingredients and marketing practices was launched in 2013 by the New York Attorney General’s office and the federal government into its ingredients and marketing practices.

Why aren’t energy drinks better regulated?

It’s complicated. Energy drinks are classed as dietary supplements and escape the scrutiny placed on foods and other consumable products. And labels are required to include ingredients but not amounts or levels, so there is no regulation of caffeine amounts, for instance. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has asked the FDA for new warning labels. The CSPI wants warning labels on the drinks to include heart attacks, convulsion and other possible risks. For more information, read an interview with Monster Energy Drink attorney Kevin Goldberg.

Have other energy drink lawsuits been filed?

Yes. Besides the two wrongful death lawsuits (Anais Fournier and Alex Morris), other energy drink claims have been filed, including another wrongful death suit.

Shane Felts died as a result of ingesting energy drinks, according to his wife. The lawsuit, Felts v. Monster Beverage Corporation, et al, alleges Monster Energy Extra Strength with Nitrous Technology is not safe for consumers because “it contains excessive amounts of caffeine, lacks sufficient information in its labeling, and fails to warn about a variety of alleged health risks,” according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges the drink was defectively designed, negligently manufactured and violates the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

The family of 33-year-old Cory Terry, who died of a heart attack during a basketball game after consuming a can of Red Bull, filed an $85 million wrongful death lawsuit against the energy drink company in 2011.

Have any energy drink settlements been reached?

Red Bull has agreed to pay more than $13 million to settle a lawsuit that was seeking class-action status to settle claims of false advertising. Millions of Red Bull consumers who bought at least one can of Red Bull in the past 10 years will each get a $10 cash reimbursement or two free Red Bull products.

Two wrongful death Monster Energy lawsuits were reportedly settled: that of Alex Morris and the other Shane Felts. The family of Anais Fournier will presumably get their day in court this August.

Can I file an energy drink claim?

Yes. If you or a loved one has been harmed by energy drinks such as Monster, 5-Hour Energy and Rockstar, an attorney can investigate your claim.
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Last updated on Jun-19-15