Beware of caffeinated drinks; they carry potential health hazards

September 24th, 2008 - 4:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 24 (IANS) Johns Hopkins scientists who have spent decades researching the effects of caffeine, made a strong pitch for caffeinated energy drinks carrying prominent labels that warn of potential health risks.Caffeine intoxication, a recognised clinical syndrome is marked by nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal upset, tremors, rapid heartbeats, restlessness and pacing and in rare cases, death.

“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 unlabelled and few include warnings about the potential health risks of caffeine intoxication,” said Roland Griffiths of John Hopkins and a co-author of the study.

The market for these drinks stands at an estimated $5.4 billion in the US and is expanding at a rate of 55 percent annually. Advertising campaigns, which principally target teens and young adults, promote the performance-enhancing and stimulant effects of energy drinks and appear to glorify drug use, reports Eurekalert.

Without adequate, prominent labelling; consumers most likely won’t realize whether they are getting a little or a lot of caffeine. “It’s like drinking a serving of an alcoholic beverage and not knowing if its beer or scotch,” said Griffiths.

In a 2007 survey of 496 college students, 51 percent reported consuming at least one energy drink during the last month. Of these energy drink users, 29 percent reported “weekly jolt and crash episodes,” and 19 percent reported heart palpitations from drinking energy drinks.

This same survey revealed that 27 percent of the students surveyed said they mixed energy drinks and alcohol at least once in the past month. “Alcohol adds another level of danger,” said Griffiths, “because caffeine in high doses can give users a false sense of alertness….”

These findings were published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence this month.

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