Researchers question energy drink safety (again); Red Bull points to EU backing

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Energy drinks, Caffeine, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Energy drinks are being criticised over stimulant levels but Red Bull says EU authorities have found them to be safe
Energy drinks are being criticised over stimulant levels but Red Bull says EU authorities have found them to be safe
US researchers have singled out children and teenagers with heart abnormalities, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other health or emotional problems as being susceptible to adverse events when consuming energy drinks.

The damning report about a sector valued at more than $5bn by drinks market analyst Canadean, has just been published online in Pediatrics​ and follows a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) commentary which slammed energy drinks over caffeine levels that can push above 500mg per serving.

Co-author of the Pediatrics​ study, Dr Steven E. Lipshultz, the chairman of pediatrics at the University of Miami, said energy drinks were, “a set of products that are totally unregulated and have no therapeutic benefit”.

It is estimated up to 50 per cent of young Americans consume energy drinks, often mixing them with alcohol.

Like the JAMA commentary, Dr Lipshultz and his fellow researchers pointed to the fact caffeine levels were not regulated in energy drinks, nor were other stimulants such as taurine and guarana.

European backing

Responding, global energy drinks leader Red Bull pointed to European Union research that backed the safety of the products.

“The EU’s food safety authorities spent 10 years thoroughly examining energy drinks and concluded that the key ingredients [taurine and glucuronolactone] are of no concern,"​ Red Bull said.

"This article just draws together material from the internet, and largely ignores the genuine, scientifically rigorous examination of energy drinks by reputable national authorities. The effects of caffeine are well-known, and as an 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee [80 mg], it should be treated accordingly."

The researchers noted that of 5448 US caffeine overdoses reported in 2007, 46 percent occurred in under-19s before concluding: “Long-term research should aim to understand the effects in at-risk populations. Toxicity surveillance should be improved, and regulations of energy-drink sales and consumption should be based on appropriate research.”

The study is available online here​.



Volume 127, Number 3, March 2011

Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults’

Authors: Sara M. Seifert, Judith L. Schaechter, Eugene R. Hershorin and Steven E. Lipshultz

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1 comment


Posted by A. De Rubeis,

I must congratulate the "researchers" that have concluded that stimulants are not recommended for children or those with existing health issues. One can only pray that this profound ancillary statement of the obvious didn’t cost the taxpayers anything or take too much time.

Equally obvious is the “warning” regarding teens mixing stimulants with alcohol…isn’t alcohol already regulated? Is it not currently against the law to purchase or drink alcohol if you are under 21? …Should the ubiquitous rum ‘n coke be banned? I suggest that the “experts” immediately study the absurd notion that common sense can be regulated.

Energy drinks by definition contain stimulants with some product formulations better than others however, I know of no advertising that is aimed at young children. Further and most importantly, parents who allow their children to ingest these products are woefully inattentive and foolish and, having successfully raised two children, I have yet to see an effective fool-proof procedure to completely control adolescent experimentation and stupidity. In conclusion, without exception, every article I have read on this subject ends with another startling revelation; ‘…more research is needed’ – perhaps it would be a better idea to fully research the issue and publish irrefutable evidence rather than band-wagon hyperbole and conjecture.

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