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Epilepsy and Energy Drinks – Think Before You Drink!

It feels good and it tastes good, it’s easy to drink and it gives you that extra jolt of energy. But is it really worth it?

Think the death of 18-year-old Irish athlete, Ross Cooney, who died within hours after playing a basketball game and consuming four cans of “Red Bull”. (Subsequently it was banned in France.)

While we all need an energy boost from time to time, an energy drink may not be the best way to get it, experts say. In fact, the FDA doesn’t even define the term “energy drink,” leading the labeling up to the manufacturer.

There are reports of seizures induced by energy drinks. Some believe they’re caused due to the “crash” that follows the energy high. And although there is no danger of over caffeination in one drink, more than one drink can lead to adverse side effects which include nervousness, irritability, frequent urination, and arrhythmia.

And it’s important to know the repercussions for your body. The entire theory about energy drinks is they will actually give you energy, and they do. Too much energy and it wears off rapidly, causing the person to go into a tired slump. In fact, seizures can be caused by the increase in the energy which actually burns up that same energy.

In November 2010, the University of Texas Medical School at Houston reported that energy drinks contain more caffeine than a strong cup of coffee, and that the caffeine combined with other ingredients (sometimes not reported correctly on labels) such as guarana, amino acid taurine, green tea and other herbs, vitamins and minerals, may interact. Energy drinks consumed with alcohol may affect heart rates, blood pressure and even mental states. The caffeine content of a single energy drink ranges from 70 — 200 milligrams per 16-oz serving while a 16-oz cup of coffee can contain 20 — 300 milligrams.

Not surprising, most of the energy from these drinks comes from the sugar and caffeine, (which can be very dehydrating), not from the unnecessary extras which might sound romantic and fortifying. But those high-tech sounding ingredients are of no value, and potentially harmful in large amounts. And just trying to figure out exactly how much of each stimulant is contained in an energy drink can be difficult.

“Pimp Juice”, “Full Throttle”, “Rock Star”, “Monster Energy”, “Rage”, “Cocaine”, “Red Bull” — these are some of the high-powered energy drinks being marketed to young adults. The web sites for these products are full of images of macho lifestyles. They promote beverages containing ingredients that sound scientific, but may be unfamiliar to many consumers.

Energy drinks have also been associated with seizures in people with no history of epilepsy. This is thought to be mostly result from caffeine, but taurine may also be implicated. It has anticonvulsant effects, but it in some situations it may actually provoke seizures. And excessive consumption of energy drinks may bring about seizures in those who suffer from certain forms of epilepsy. This is caused by the “crash” that follows the energy high after consumption.

For example, (even though it’s a small sampling), four patients had seizures after consuming large amounts of energy drinks (multiple cans of product, usually on an empty stomach). One patient experienced two separate episodes that were both related to intake of multiple cans of “Monster”. One patient experienced a seizure when using a “diet pill” (containing caffeine) in conjunction with one 24-ounce can of “Monster”. At follow-up, no further seizure activity was demonstrated by patients after abstaining from energy drinks

Also, energy drinks may pose a serious health risk for some children, especially those with diabetes, seizures, cardiac abnormalities or mood and behavior disorders. A new study, in the March issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, determined that energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit to children, and both the known and unknown properties of the ingredients, combined with reports of toxicity, may put some children at risk for adverse health events.

Yet, especially athletes, account for half of the energy drink market, and according to surveys, 30 percent to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks. The high levels of stimulants such as caffeine, taurine, and guarana, are a little scary and safe consumption levels have not been established for most adolescents. Because energy drinks are frequently marketed to athletes and at-risk young adults, it is important for pediatric health care providers to screen for heavy use and to educate families and children at-risk for energy drink overdose, which can result in seizures, stroke and even sudden death.

So whether you’re a kid or an adult…energy drinks are a risky proposition. Is it really worth it?

Phylis Feiner Johnson

www.epilepsytalk.com

Comments

About energy drinks - educational resource:  http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Tartrazine_and_ADHD/ (in depth).  There is a continuing need for full ingredient labeling and for labels which are more informative for consumer protection - my view.  Organic coffee, organic tea - caffeine, etc. - compared to many ingredients - is viewed to be generally safe when used in moderation.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine  Organic coffees and teas which have been around for centuries, are part of the product lines of most health stores/grocery stores today.  Some persons find them helpful, others drink them for the taste, and still others find them unwanted and choose other options instead.  Words:  Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Dr. Pepper, soft drinks, coffees, teas, sports drinks (Gatorade), energy drinks, functional drinks, etc.  The crime rate associated with coffee houses like Starbuck's or coffee drinking at MacDonald's is zero compared to the crime rate/drunk driving cases/fights associated with bars (alcohol, tobacco smoke). 

Thanks for sharing, people need to know.

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