Link between energy drinks, deaths investigated

-Dr.Dianne McCallister, Chief Medical Officer at Porter Adventist Hospital

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it's investigating reports of five deaths and a non-fatal heart attack linked to highly caffeinated Monster Energy Drinks.

The agency acknowledged the adverse reports Monday, but FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess says they don't prove that the drinks caused the deaths.

The news follows last week's filing in California of a wrongful death suit by the parents of a 14-year-old, Hagerstown, Md., girl who died after drinking two, 24-ounce Monster Beverage Corp. drinks in 24 hours.

An autopsy concluded she died of cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.

While there is not any proof that the drinks caused the deaths, these concerns, coupled with a reported ten fold increase in emergency room visits related to energy drinks created enough concern to begin the investigation.

Caffeine Content

Interestingly, a cup of coffee can contain about the same amount of caffeine, if not a little more, than many energy drinks.

  • cup of Starbucks Pike Place brewed coffee contains
  • 330 mg of caffeine Generic brewed coffee contains between 95-200 mg per 8 oz cup
  • Mountain Dew contains 46-55 mg in 12 oz
  • 5 hour energy contains 207 mg in 2 oz
  • Monster contains 80 mg in 8 oz

However, energy drinks such as Monster also contain ginseng and taurine, which also are stimulants - and can augment the effects of the caffeine in the drink. These drinks are not regulated like foods or drugs. For example, according to regulations a soft drink cannot contain more than 71 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine's Effects

Caffeine is a stimulant - which is why it helps us wake up, or feel more alert.

The effects of excessive caffeine depend on the dose.

A person can experience rapid heart beats, increased diarrhea, insomnia and tremors.

In high doses, caffeine can cause serious problems such as abnormal heart rhythms, paranoia, convulsions and hallucinations.

If you suspect an overdose and the patient is conscious, call the National Poison Control Center and get expert instructions.

If there is loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, seizures or chest pain, call 911 to get emergency medical attention.

On the other hand, consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine have been associated with beneficial effects such as decreased chances for heart failure and Alzheimer's disease.

What is safe?

Children should not consume caffeine

Teens should be limited to 100mg or less of caffeine per day

Adults should limit their intake to 400mg per day

Dr. McCallister is on 7NEWS at 11 a.m. every Wednesday. If you have a topic or question you would like her to discuss, email

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