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Are Monster Caffeine Levels Akin to a Jekyll-and-Hyde Personality?

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Corona, CAEveryone agrees that alleged Monster Energy Drink Deaths and Hospitalizations is no laughing matter. And yet, while the two sides in the debate continue to polarize opinion on the safety of energy drinks, Monster Beverage Corp. includes in its line of products “Anti-Gravity Extra Strength,” which is a Monster drink fused with nitrous oxide to provide, according to a Monster website, “a unique texture, smooth drinkable flavor and buzz that’s bigger than ever.”

Nitrous oxide is otherwise known as laughing gas.

While the energy drink industry continues to grow at a rapid pace and purveyors of the product stand behind their products as safe, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nonetheless has the products under its watchful eye following five deaths linked to the consumption of Monster drink contents between April 2009 and April 2012, a period spanning three years. Incident reports range from vomiting and convulsions to chest pains and abnormal heart rhythms.

It should be noted, according to an exhaustive report in the Orange County Register (6/18/13), that the FDA cautions that none of those fatalities have yet to be proven as the result of energy drink use. While energy drinks contain more caffeine than typical soft drinks, the caffeine content is less than a comparably sized cup of coffee.

What’s more, some experts on caffeine feel that rather than be maligned, the energy drink sector should be hailed for its innovation, and maintain that the risk over Monster Energy Drink injury and that of competing products has been overblown.

“The brouhaha over how much we’re being flooded with caffeine is so much nonsense,” says Bennett Alan Weinberg, who with Bonnie K. Bealer is co-author of The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug. “Coffee is an extremely popular drink and people are not dropping dead from drinking a cup of coffee. It’s hard to see them as some kind of overwhelming danger,” he says of energy drinks. “It seems almost silly.” Weinberg notes that caffeine is safe when not abused.

However, critics say that’s the point. Coffee, which reportedly contains more caffeine than Monster caffeine levels, is usually consumed by adults (as opposed to children), and as a hot beverage is designed to be sipped and consumed slowly, allowing for the caffeine to enter the body gradually. Manufacturers of energy drinks, on the other hand, have been known to encourage their young patrons to “chug it down” or “throw it back” quickly.

Does such a combination of rapid consumption of near-adult caffeine levels by a child or teen add up to a perfect storm of Monster Energy Drink Deaths and Hospitalizations?

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera thinks so. He filed a lawsuit back in May accusing Monster Beverage Corp. of illegally marketing an unsafe product to children as young as six, according to the Orange County Register report. Herrera says that the rise in popularity of the energy drink sector has been accompanied by “a parallel increase in the number of emergency-room visits related to energy-drink consumption,” he said.

It should be noted that anyone musing about the potential parallels to a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation with rapid consumption of caffeine via monster caffeine levels might be surprised to learn that Monster Beverage Corp. has its roots in natural colas and juices. Founded in 1935 as Hansen’s Fruit and Vegetable Juices and a later incarnation, Hansen’s Natural Sodas, the company that is now responsible for Monster drink contents used to be known for the slogan “made by nature, mixed by man.”

But the company fell on hard times and filed for bankruptcy in 1988. It was eventually sold to the ownership group now running Monster, which launched a search for new product lines to rejuvenate the decimated company and hit upon the idea for the Monster energy drink and the potential for marketing “lifestyle in a can.” The name of the company was subsequently changed to reflect its star product, and net sales were $2.06 billion last year, an all-time high.

But is the potential for Monster Energy Drink Deaths and Hospitalizations too high a price for the caffeine high that comes with chugging Monster drink contents? The debate continues.

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