published Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Ask a doctor: Are energy drinks really dangerous?

Dr. Allen Coffman

Q: I saw an article about a girl who died after consuming energy drinks. Are they really dangerous?

A: Energy drinks causing suspected adverse events in teens and young adults is well documented (37 adverse-reaction reports regarding one specific drink since 2004). This past year, a 14-year-old Maryland girl's autopsy cited "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity" as the cause of death after she consumed a particular drink. Energy drinks are not regulated because they are considered dietary supplements. The federal law's maximum caffeine content does not apply to energy drinks. Some of these products can contain over 500 milligrams of caffeine. By comparison, federal law mandates that soft drinks contain no more than 71.5 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces. Energy drinks are never appropriate for children and adolescents. They can pose potential catastrophic consequences to a child, teen or adult. Water is always the best choice to rehydrate.

-- Dr. Allen Coffman, Beacon Highland Pediatrics; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a question for medical doctors, email it to Clint Cooper at See this space each week for answers.

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