Amelia M. Arria, PhD & Mary Claire O’Brien, MD offer their opinion on energy drink regulation in JAMA
In this Commentary, we outline why regular (nonalcoholic) energy drinks might pose just as great a threat to individual and public health and safety.
Energy drinks are beverages that contain modest to relatively high levels and concentrations of caffeine (range: 50-505 mg caffeine/serving; 2.5-35.7 mg caffeine/oz) compared with other caffeinated beverages such as a 12-ounce cola (range 34-54 mg; 2.9-4.5 mg caffeine/oz) or a 6-ounce cup of coffee (range 77-150 mg; 12.8-25 mg caffeine/oz).
In contrast, energy “shots” are low-volume (1-2 oz) beverages and therefore have an even higher concentration of caffeine than other energy drinks (range 100-350 mg; 90-171 mg caffeine/oz).
Among adolescents, caffeine consumption has been linked to elevated blood pressure and sleep disturbances. Among pregnant women, high caffeine intake is associated with risk for late miscarriages, stillbirths, and small-for-gestational-age infants.
any type of caffeine consumption after a drinking session might reduce sleepiness, it does not alleviate alcohol-related impairment. The state of being less likely to accurately appraise the true level of impairment has been labeled “wide-awake drunkenness” and can lead to engaging in risky behavior.
simultaneously consuming alcohol and energy drinks can prolong the drinking session by keeping the individual awake longer and therefore may lead to drinking much more alcohol than intended.
More research is needed in particular to guide the decision making of regulatory agencies related to placing a scientifically validated upper limit on the amount of caffeine a manufacturer can include in a single serving of any beverage. Currently, the maximum allowable caffeine limit set by the FDA for cola-like drinks is 0.02%, or 71 mg per 12-oz serving. It is unclear why this limit does not apply to energy drinks