Drinks Boost Energy and ER Visits

Drinks Boost Energy and ER Visits

We are a nation hooked on caffeine.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  Twenty years ago, when cramming for a test the next day, a college student might go for a couple Mountain Dews to keep sharp during the night. But these days, it's energy drinks that have taken over the market, and some health professionals say it's sending more people to the emergency room.

Statistics show that beverages containing caffeine are second only behind water as the most consumed drinks. And more often, our choice of caffeine comes in the form of drinks like Full Throttle, Monster and Red Bull among others.

A government study says these drinks are posing a "...rising public health threat.," blaming 20,000 hospital emergency room cases in 2011 alone on the drinks, double the amount over the year before. Some say the danger in the drinks is they contain around five times the amount of caffeine per serving as does a regular soft drink. What's worse is that the caffeine amount is not restricted.

"A can of soda has a regulated amount of caffeine that can occur in that 12 ounces," says Dr. Cynthia Brownfield of Heartland Regional Medical Center. "These energy drinks have no regulations. Also, they are not required to report all the ingredients in them."

In addition to restricting blood flow to the brain, Dr. Brownfield says too much caffeine can cause anxiety, hypertension, dehydration and irregular heartbeat. And while numbers nationally are spiking, area hospitals we talked to are not reporting a spike in ER visits being directly linked to energy drinks.

The beverage industry adds their drinks are safe and it's impossible to understand the role energy drinks play in these hospital visits. Regardless, there's been a big boost in the energy drink market. Sales of the drinks topped $7 billion last year nationally, nearly double over just three years ago. That number is expected to only go up.
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