There are considerable dangers in consuming energy drinks, and there needs to be significantly more public education on the matter, with or without FDA action, says a recent commentary by leading scientists and health professionals in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).
Energy drinks can contain upwards of 500 milligrams of caffeine per serving, compared with sodas, which are limited by the FDA to no more than 71 mg of caffeine per serving. The "herbal enhancement" designation of energy drinks allows them to add significant amounts of caffeine. Exotic and natural herbal extracts such as ginseng, ginko biloba and fat-burning amino acids such as L-carnitine are often added to energy drinks to boost their multi-function profile and to differentiate them from the soda/soft-drink category even further.
Energy alcohol drinks like Four Loko were recently banned due to their dangerous mix of caffeine and alcohol, but in the JAMA commentary, researchers suggest the non-alcoholic products are “just as great a threat to individual and public health and safety” as the ‘premixed’ alcoholic energy drinks. The commentary says, "Regulatory agencies should require specific labeling regarding caffeine content, with warnings about the risks associated with caffeine consumption in adolescents and in pregnant women as well as with explicit information about the potential risks associated with mixing energy drinks with alcohol.”
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The US market for energy drinks is estimated to be valued at over $6 billion. Redbull—the number one selling energy drink brand claims on their Web site to sell more than 4 billion servings of their product each year around the world.
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