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Study Finds Energy Drink Poisoning Risk in Children

November 17, 2014 — A new study is adding more evidence that energy drinks pose serious risks for children and teenagers, including seizures and heart problems.

Between October 2010 and September 2013, there were 5,156 calls involving energy drink exposure reported at 55 poison control centers in the United States. Statistics linked to the calls included:

  • 40% involved children under 6 years old who drank an energy drink.
  • 57% involved cardiovascular side effects (abnormal heart rhythm, conduction abnormalities)
  • 55% involved neurological side effects, such as seizures.
  • One in three calls involved serious adverse events like seizure, chest pain, vomiting, nausea, or abnormal heart rhythm
  • In 42% of moderate or major injuries, the energy drink was mixed with alcohol.

The lead researcher, Dr. Steven Lipschultz, presented this data at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014. He warned:

“Energy drinks have no place in pediatric diets. And anyone with underlying cardiac, neurologic or other significant medical conditions should check with their health care provider to make sure it’s safe to consume energy drinks.”

The study also raises concern about inadequate labeling and aggressive marketing that specifically targets young people. Many people do not realize that an energy drink is not regulated as food by the FDA, but rather as a dietary supplement, which allows manufacturers to include untested ingredients and sell their product without warning labels.

Unfortunately, many energy drinks contain 400-mg of pharmaceutical-grade caffeine. According to Dr. Lipschultz, teenagers who consume more than 100-mg of caffeine per day can experience symptoms of toxicity. In children under 12 years old, symptoms may appear at doses higher than 2.5-mg of caffeine per kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight.

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