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Originally published February 5 2009

Energy Drinks Causing Caffeine Intoxication

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The way that energy drinks are marketed and used places consumers at significant risk of caffeine intoxication, according to a study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

"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," said study co-author Roland Griffiths.

The symptoms of caffeine intoxication include anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, pacing, tremors, rapid heartbeat and digestive upset. In particularly high doses, caffeine can be fatal.

The researchers noted that because energy drinks are marketed as dietary supplements rather than food products, manufacturers are not required to disclose how much caffeine they contain. In addition, the FDA maximum of 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces does not apply. The average 12 ounce cola contains approximately 35 milligrams of caffeine, while a six-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains anywhere from 80 to 150 mg. Yet some energy drinks may contain hundreds of milligrams of caffeine per can.

Part of what makes energy drinks dangerous is that companies mainly market them at teenagers and young adults, pushing them as performance enhancers without warning of potential side effects. As a consequence, many youths drink the products in large quantities throughout the day, like any other beverage.

"It's notable that over-the-counter caffeine-containing products require warning labels, yet energy drinks do not," co-author Chad Reissig said.

Also dangerous is the regular practice of mixing energy drinks with alcohol, which 27 percent of college students report doing at least once per month. Because caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol a depressant, people who mix the two tend to feel as if they are less intoxicated than they actually are.

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