BMJ Case Study Links Case of Acute Hepatitis to Energy Drink Consumption. As the energy drink market has expanded and grown in popularity throughout the years, experts and consumers have raised questions about the safety of ingesting these beverages, especially in children. Due to potential health risks, some have called for warning labels to be added. There are also concerns about the way energy drinks are marketed towards children, who are particularly vulnerable to high levels of caffeine. Parker Waichman attorneys, who specialize in consumer advocacy, are investigating potential energy drink lawsuits.
On Nov. 1, BMJ Case Reports published a case study where a 50-year-old man developed liver damage after drinking four to five energy drinks every day for three weeks. The authors note that the man was previously healthy and not on any prescription or over-the-counter medications. He had been experiencing abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, symptoms he believed were caused by the flu. Once his urine was dark and he experienced jaundice (yellowing of the skin), however, he went to the emergency room. The authors said the excessive number of energy drinks stood out to them as a potential cause for the man’s symptoms, noting one previous case where a patient suffered liver damage after drinking too many energy drinks. Doctors at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Florida confirmed that the man had acute hepatitis through elevated liver enzymes in blood tests.
Energy drinks usually contain a combination of caffeine and B vitamins. The authors suspect that the man’s hepatitis was caused by the high levels of vitamin B3, or niacin, in the energy-boosting beverage. Each drink contained twice the daily recommended value of niacin, placing the patient at “high risk for harmful accumulation and toxicity.” authors said. The other case of energy drink-linked hepatitis also involved excessively high levels of niacin; the daily recommended value is 20 milligrams, and the patient consumed about 300 milligrams daily.
Although there are only two documented cases of energy drink-induced hepatitis in the literature so far, the authors suggest that the issue may be more prevalent because many patients do not think to mention energy drinks or supplement use to their doctors.
FDA Investigates 5 Deaths Linked to Monster Energy Drinks
In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was investigating five energy drink deaths. The agency probed five fatalities and one non-fatal heart attack associated with Monster Energy Drink. These energy-boosting beverages are sold in 24-ounce cans and contain seven times the amount of caffeine in a 12-ounce cola.
The agency launched the investigation after a lawsuit alleged Monster energy drink caused the wrongful death of a 14-year-old. The parents of the child allege that Monster failed to warn about the risk of drinking Monster energy drinks. According to CBS, an autopsy showed that the girl died due of cardiac arrhythmia caused by caffeine toxicity. Additionally, the examiner said the child had a genetic disorder that weakens the blood vessels.
Energy Drink Should Not be Marketed to Kids, Experts Say
In light of the potential health risks, some are saying that there should be stricter regulation regarding marketing of energy drink products towards kids. In June 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) said it would support a measure that bans marketing of energy drinks in children under the age of 18. The group notes that excessive amounts of caffeine can lead to heart problems and other issues in young people. AMA board member Dr. Alexander Ding said in a statement, “Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems, and banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids,”
Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in 2011 that children and adolescents should never consume energy drinks because they can lead to neurologic and cardiovascular side effects.
In 2014, researchers led by Dr. Steven Lipshultz, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, in Detroit, found that 40 percent of energy drink poison control center calls over a three year period involved children under the age of 6. Serious energy drink side effects included seizures and heart problems.
In light of the health risks, energy drink manufacturers have been scrutinized over the way they market their products, particularly towards children and adolescents. In 2014, a bill was introduced in Maryland’s General Assembly that would ban the marketing and sale of energy drinks to anyone under the age of 18.