The Food and Drug Administration released information on Friday that suggested energy drinks may have contributed to 13 deaths and over 90 other adverse medical conditions. The drinks included popular brands, such as 5-Hour Energy, Monster Energy, and Rockstar Energy drinks. These recent concerns help strengthen a recent decision of the Manatee County School Board in Florida, which voted to ban the drinks several months ago. However, the threat of serious medical side effects was partially eclipsed by other concerns, including how the drinks affected a student’s ability to concentrate in class.
“If I have a few sips, it won’t really do nothing. But if I drink a whole one, then it will have me bouncing off the walls in the classroom,” one student told reporters. The drinks are loaded with sugar and caffeine, which can makes students restless and unable to focus while in school. “We know a significant number of students who have increased energy followed by decreased energy [due to energy drinks, and] can have agitation,” a spokesperson from one of the area schools told reporters. “Caffeine affects how the brain works.”
The school board voted to have energy drinks completely banned, citing these concerns. Vending machines will no longer offer the drinks and if a student is caught on campus with the drink, they will be reprimanded, reports say. Schools throughout the country have been following suit, banning sugary liquids such as energy drinks and chocolate milk. Besides posing risks to a student’s concentration, the drinks also affect tooth decay and may have adverse effects on a student’s overall health. However, not all such bans have longevity; last year, the University of New Hampshire banned similar drinks on their campus, only to lift that ban a short while later, citing a lack of evidence regarding those adverse medical effects.
According to reports, caffeine stimulates the body, causing a consumer’s blood pressure and heart rate to rise. At least one psychologist commented on the energy drinks, saying they open young people’s curiosity to other forms of stimulating substances. “Once you get used to the idea, put something in your body to change the way you feel, then you open the door to all kinds of possibilities,” he told reporters. These effects are notably stronger on children, whose smaller and still-developing bodies are more receptive to such substances.
The sale of energy drinks has skyrocketed over the last decade. 5-Hour Energy, arguably the most popular energy drink on the market, hit store shelves in 2004 and soon evolved into a billion dollar product. 5-Hour Energy’s warning label specifies that it is not meant for consumption by children.
Monster Energy went on sale in 2002, offering consumers a flavorful way to gulp down caffeine. Celebrities, extreme sports champions, and musicians have since endorsed the product. In December, 2011, the drink was blamed for the death of one 14-year-old, who died of a “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.”
The other deaths that the FDA is investigating occurred over a four-year period, during which time physicians claimed that energy drinks may have contributed to the deaths of their patients. However, no physical evidence has yet surfaced to prove that the drinks are responsible for any deaths.