The fact that energy drinks contain excessive amounts of caffeine comes as no surprise. But what are the chances that these popular beverages present real health risks? A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence investigated this; the authors found that energy drinks may lead to caffeine intoxication, a clinical condition that could lead to death in rare instances. Signs of caffeine intoxication include nervousness, anxiety, insomnia restlessness, tremor, rapid heartbeat, pacing and gastrointestinal distress.
Caffeine is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but only for food products. A regular 12-ounce soda is allowed to contain a maximum of 71 milligrams of caffeine, but only has about 35 milligrams. Energy drinks manage to circumvent rules because they are considered dietary supplements, which fall outside of the agency’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, these beverages do not have to have warning labels as required of over-the-counter products.
One of the authors of the study is Roland Griffiths from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, who stated “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 unlabeled and few include warnings about potential health risks of caffeine intoxication,” according to The Richmond Register. The authors say that energy beverages should have warnings labels to inform consumers of the risks.