What's the Problem?
A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics in February 2011 found that energy drinks have little to no real therapeutic benefit, and that many of their ingredients are unregulated and/or understudied.
“The known and unknown pharmacology of agents included in such drinks, combined with reports of caffeine toxicity, raises concern for potentially serious adverse effects in association with energy-drink use. In the short-term, pediatricians need to be aware of the possible effects in vulnerable populations and screen for consumption to educate families.”
The researchers recommended that additional studies be conducted focusing on identifying the potential long-term side effects, and that the sale and regulation of such products by convenience stores should be based upon comprehensive analysis.
A Brief History of Energy Drinks
Although energy drinks marketed as alternatives to coffee have been around since the late eighties, it wasn’t until Red Bull hit the U.S. market in 1997 that the phenomenon really started to take off. After Red Bull became wildly successful with young people around the country, a number of energy drink companies such as Pepsi and Coca Cola attempted to capitalize on the trend with beverages of their own.
Popular energy drinks include:
- 5-Hour Energy
- Monster Energy
- AMP Energy
- NOS Energy
- Redline Energy
- Hansen’s Energy
- Adrenaline Rush
- Amazon Energy Drinks
- Extreme Energy
Do Energy Drinks Even Work?
Although marketed as a quick and delicious way to get your amp on, an average energy drink like Red Bull gives you less of a kick than a cup of black coffee.
The relative ineffectiveness of beverages containing taurine and guarana has been known for years. But crafty drink makers have found increasingly creative ways to quench the public’s seemingly-endless thirst for energy. Don’t be fooled by their claims.
American culture is currently suffering from an energy crisis of a different kind: We’re consuming these products at staggering rates, yet we’re lazier and more lethargic than ever. According to a Mintel survey, sales of energy drink products have more than doubled in recent years, with 35% of men ages 18 to 24 drinking them on a regular basis.
Over the years, a number of drink makers like Red Bull have become increasingly clever in their sales pitch - they take out an ingredient receiving negative publicity, and then market the product as a ‘healthier’ alternative to the original. First it was sugar, and now it’s caffeine. Popular drinks such as Hydrive and 5-Hour Energy now have decaf options.
The energy trend is moving away from grande lattes and super-sized cans toward shrinking micro drinks. Last year, Americans spent nearly $1.5 billion on dietary supplements - more than 17 times the $73 billion they spent in 2006. So what’s the allure of a downsized energy drink?
The false promise of hours of energy with just a few sips. The problem is that these shots pack all the punch of their full-size counterparts in just a couple of ounces, and many consumers find themselves drinking more than one at a time to keep themselves satiated.
Don’t want the caffeine? Just grab a protein-rich snack like a handful of almonds or peanuts before you go. Protein aids in insulin production, and insulin has a tangible energizing effect.
Energy Drink Side Effects
According to the Pediatrics study, energy drinks like Red Bull are consumed by an estimated 30 to 50% of adolescents and young adults. Often containing excessive amounts and dangerous levels of caffeine content, these beverages have been reportedly connected to serious side effects including:
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Allergic reactions including rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the (mouth, face, lips, or tongue), diarrhea, shakiness, trouble sleeping, vomiting
- Severe fatigue from withdrawal
- Breast shrinkage in females
The risk for these types of side effects is greatly increased in children, adolescents, and young adults under the age limit with the following health issues:
- Cardiac abnormalities
- Mood and behavioral disorders
- Users of certain prescription medications
According to the Pediatrics study, of the 5,448 caffeine overdoses reported in the U.S. in 2007, nearly half occurred in children under the age of 19. Considering the high number of adverse events associated with energy drink products like Red Bull and Monster, several states have considered restricting or even banning sales of the products outright.
Related Article: Is Epilepsy Considered a Disability?
How Dangerous Are Energy Drinks?
The new study comes at a time when the energy drink industry has been increasingly criticized by many in the healthcare community.
In a January 2012 editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Amelia Arria from the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Mary Claire O’Brien from Wake Forest University School of Medicine claimed that energy beverages are“just as great a threat to individual and public health and safety” as the premixed alcoholic drinks recently deemed unsafe by the FDA.
Coca-Cola, Pepsi Launch New Energy Drink Products as Soda Consumption Falls
As soda consumption continues to decline nationwide, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are attempting to leverage their massive name recognition in order to cash in on the growing energy drink market, according to CNBC . Coke plans to sell Coca-Cola Energy  in 20 countries by the end of this year, while Pepsi is continuing to push its Mountain Dew line into the energy drink category.
Total energy drink sales in the U.S. jumped nearly 30% from 2013 to 2018, reaching an estimated $13.5 billion in sales last year, according to Mintel data. Energy drink makers, which represent 92% of the energy market, are entirely responsible for that growth, Mintel found.
Energy Drinks Linked to Kidney Disease Risk, Study Finds
A new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has identified yet another link between the consumption of sugar-laden energy drinks and a risk for kidney disease and heart attack emergency room visits. The results indicated that one-third of the cohort that drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages like Red Bull were 61% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than the third who drank the least.
The study involved a cohort of about 3,000 African American men and women with normal kidney function, and included another study on risk factors for other diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. The results indicated that one-third of the cohort that drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages were 61% more likely to develop a chronic kidney disease than the third who drank the least.
Caffeine in Energy Drinks Linked to Heart Side Effects
The high levels of caffeine in energy drinks like Red Bull may lead to severe blood pressure health problems and kidney failure, according to a new case report  published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
The report looked at the case of a 28-year-old man hospitalized after vomiting blood. The patient’s only abnormality (other than obesity) was a rapid heart rate (tachycardia) -- approximately 130 beats per minute.
An electrocardiogram revealed atrial fibrillation (a-fib), a common type of arrhythmia that can cause serious complications if left untreated. Subsequent testing found no other heart problems.
The man said he typically consumed 2 Monster beverages per day (320 milligrams of caffeine), in addition to 2 to 3 beers. No other causes of a-fib were apparent.
Monster Energy Drinks Lawsuits
In the early morning hours of June 25, 2012, Shane Felts died after consuming Monster energy drinks and other highly caffeinated beverages. “About 2:00 or 2:30 [am], I heard a thump, he was on the floor in the bathroom,” said Felts’ wife Heather. She and her 2 sons rushed him to the hospital.
“It’s just like the movies; a doctor kneels down in the front of you and says ‘I’m sorry, we did everything we could but he’s gone,’” she said.
Felts filed a lawsuit in August 2014 alleging that Monster energy drinks contributed to the wrongful death of her husband through false advertising for inadequate warnings about the risk of caffeine overdoses and other health complications from soft drinks.
The wrongful death class action lawsuit is: Felts v. Monster Beverage Corporation et al, Case No. 4:2014cv00758, filed August 22, 2014 at Missouri Western District Court.
Meanwhile, another Monster Energy Drink Lawsuit went to trial in early May 2015. Alex Morris, 19, died from a cardiac arrest, kidney failure and other health problems in July 2012 after consuming Monster products.
According to allegations raised in the wrongful death lawsuit, Alex consumed at least two 16 oz. cans of Monster Energy Drink in the 24 hours before his death, and at least two 16 oz cans per day during the three years preceding his death.
The coroner listed the cause of death as cardiac arrest from high blood pressure and too much caffeine, with autopsy reports confirming there were no illegal drugs or alcohol in Morris’ system when he died.
The lawsuit alleges Monster “failed to warn consumers of the true health risks, scope and severity of potential side effects of the Monster drinks that Alex Morris consumed such as increased risk of stroke, blood clots, heart attack and cardiac arrhythmia.”
This is the second Monster Drink Lawsuit to go to trial. Monster Beverage Corp. settled previous class action lawsuits during trial in San Francisco. In all cases, the defendant has denied any wrongdoing or false advertising.
Get a Free Energy Drinks Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers
The Product Liability Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Energy Drink Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently investigating new class action lawsuits in all 50 states.
Again, if you or a loved one has been injured by energy drink health risks, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free consultation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing class action lawsuits and we can help.