Killer Caffeine?

by John McKiggan

Caffeine May Help Fight Brain Injury

A short while ago I wrote about the positive effects caffeine can have in fighting Alzheimer’s disease : Don’t Forget the Coffee!

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Unfortunately, it appears that – as with a lot of other things – excess consumption of caffeine can also have some severe negative effects. According to a recent CBC article, the United States Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) are investigating 13 deaths connected to the consumption of popular energy drinks.

The “energy shot” drink 5-Hour Energy and the canned Monster Energy Drink are both being linked to the deaths. Notably, as of yet there has been no recall or investigation of the products in Canada.

FDA Warning

FDA spokesperson, Shelly Burgess warned consumers that the drinks should not be treated as substitutes for proper rest:

“If someone is thinking about taking one of these products, they should consult with their health care provider to ensure that there are no underlying or undiagnosed medical conditions that could worsen as a result of using them.”


The 5-Hour Energy company website warns that customers should not ingest more than two bottles of the product, and they should be consumed “several hours apart.” The site also contains a disclaimer that the product should not be consumed if “you are pregnant or nursing, or under 12 years of age.”

5-Hour Energy also posted a response to the reports of the deaths on their website.

I wonder how many people actually go on-line to read these warnings before they chug down one of these “shots”.

Potential Risk Well Known

It has long been known that extreme caffeine overdose can result in death. However, caffeine overdose through the traditional methods, coffee or tea, is extremely difficult.

The concern is that the new super-caffeinated options such as caffeine pills or energy drinks may lead to a drastic increase in caffeine overdose cases.

A Dangerous Combination: Caffeine and Alcohol

A popular trend in today’s clubs and bars is the mixing of energy drinks and alcohol. While excessive alcohol consumption has the effect of slowing down or fatiguing the consumer, energy drinks help re-energize the partier – a potentially dangerous combination. Not only does the trend result in more consumers drinking more, as they are re-energized, but they can also have potentially dangerous effects on the human body.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) notes that young adults, particularly those at universities, drink alcohol and caffeine together at levels four times higher than the general public.

CCSA warns against the consumption of alcohol and caffeine together as they “can put Canadians at a greater risk of harm than drinking alcohol alone.”

What do you think?

Do you agree with Shelly Burgess’ statement that consumers should consult their health care provider before consuming an energy drink? If so, why isn’t that warning being issued on the products and on their advertisements?

Also, despite 5-Hour Energy’s online disclaimer that the product should not be consumed by young children, there is no law preventing the sale of these products to children. Should there be greater regulation of this potentially deadly product?

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