Death by caffeine

The slogan, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of Tootsie Pop?” takes a much more morbid turn when asked in reference to caffeine — how many energy drinks does it take to die?

A website called Energy Fiend gives consumers this information on a platter. All one has to do is type in his or her weight, and find which energy drink he or she would like to test.

After several deaths reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, caffeine in energy drinks may have put some teenagers to go into cardiac arrest.

The Monster Energy company was sued after 14-year-old Anais Fournier’s heart stopped beating in 2011 after drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy. According to NBC4 Washington, she received quick medical attention and was put into an induced coma to keep her brain alive. She died six days later on Christmas Eve.

The FDA publicized a list of reports for two more energy drinks November 2012. Monster Energy was linked to 40 illnesses and five deaths, while 13 illnesses and two lasting disabilities were linked to Rockstar Energy.

Following those reports, the FDA posted new information linking 92 illnesses and 13 deaths to 5-Hour Energy shots.

With this knowledge at hand, members of the medical field, such as doctors and medical researchers, are protesting energy drinks in the United States because of the high amount of caffeine aimed at a young audience.

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On March 19 a group of doctors, scholars and public health officials sent a joint letter to the FDA commissioner, urging the FDA to make changes to the regulation of energy drinks. In its letter, the group explained there is a “robust correlation between the caffeine levels in energy drinks and adverse health and safety consequences,” especially toward youth.

Compared to drip coffee, which has 145 grams of caffeine, Hyper Shot has 500 milligrams of caffeine. That equates to nearly three and a half 8-ounce servings of drip coffee. The consequences of an energy drink overdose can lead to niacin rush and possibly even cardiac arrest, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Criminal Justice major Maryann Liugata says she enjoys energy drinks on a daily basis.

She says, “Depending on how tired I am, I just drink them down like water, and they work faster than coffee. Sometimes I push myself so far, where you stay up forever and you have to go to class at eight.”

She says she has felt sick from energy drinks.

“It makes you want to throw up, you feel nauseated, and it’s the worst feeling,” she said.

Psychology major Tessa Indies says, “Caffeine, in large, quantities is not necessarily good for you.” She also said, “I don’t see how possible FDA regulations on the amount of this ingredient can be a bad thing.”

There are currently no ingredient regulations set in place for energy drinks. Since they are made with herbs among other chemicals, these types of drinks are often considered to be conventional foods or dietary supplements. By these categories, they also follow the same guidelines of chewing gum and vitamins.

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