The World Health Organization issued a warning back in 2014 that “energy drinks could cause public health problems.”
That was three years ago. Now a healthy teenager, who was 16 and in high school, is dead after ingesting three highly caffeinated drinks over a short period of time.
WHO’s main point of concern was these products’ high levels of caffeine. In addition, the drinks contain other potentially toxic ingredients, including taurine (an amino acid), Brazilian cocoa (labeled as guarana, it’s a caffeine-heavy South American plant), sugar, and additives. Additionally, the drinks also have other unknown substances most people — especially teenagers — can’t pronounce and have no business ingesting.
All of this is relevant again with the April 26 death of 16-year-old Davis Allen Cripe, who ingested a large diet Mountain Dew, a café latte from McDonald’s, and an energy drink (of an “unknown source”) in a two-hour span.
Following that, he collapsed at his high school and later died at Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge Hospital. The coroner, Gary Watts, cited a “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing probable arrhythmia.”
He also said Cripe was healthy and had no family history of a medical problem that could have been exacerbated by the high levels of caffeine in his system, according to USA Today and other news sources.
But there are questions to be asked here. Most adults would be flying high or in the hospital because of the rapid heart rate, or worse, brought on by ingesting that much caffeine in two short hours.
Dr. Richard Silva, a family physician at the Silva Medical Center in Pompano Beach, Florida, told LifeZette, “At least once a month we have teenagers come into our office with high blood pressure measuring, on average, 150/100 — caused by energy drinks.” Silva added, “It’s most dangerous when the energy drink is mixed with sugar,” which was the case with Cripe. “Caffeine and sugar are addictive drugs. In large amounts they can be dangerous and cardiotoxic.”
Silva also said “an arrhythmia can happen in a normal heart. You don’t need to have a family history to have an arrhythmia.”
“Energy drinks” are labeled “dietary supplements,” so the FDA is not involved in regulating labels.
Consider: A six-ounce cup of coffee has 80 to 150 milligrams of caffeine. Energy drinks can contain from 50 to more than 500 milligrams per serving. A regular 12-ounce cola drink has about 35 milligrams of caffeine. So in reality, 16-year-old Cripe could have ingested anywhere from 250 milligrams to well over 500 milligrams of caffeine in just two hours. This is unacceptable under any circumstances.
The other health risks associated with caffeine levels of any form include the “highs,” the “crashes,” the addictive nature of caffeine — plus other side effects that include chronic headaches, stomach irritation, elevated heart rate and respiration, and even death. The best defense is to keep a watchful eye on one’s intake and on that of your children. Those under 18 years of age have no business drinking caffeine, especially in the large quantities taken by Cripe.
It’s a dangerous health risk, plain and simple.
Because “energy drinks” are labeled “dietary supplements,” the FDA is not involved in regulating their labels. So you’re taking your life into your hands by drinking these “energy drinks.” Another fact that’s largely unknown by most people is also related to the labeling laws.
Gatorade’s label of ingredients reads, “Red 40,” which is the dye used to make the product red. The elements of “Red 40” alone are more than a paragraph long and are scary enough to make you run the other way. Ironic. These energy products are supposedly designed and marketed to help you run — while you should run from them.
Based in Boynton Beach, Florida, Christine King is founder and CEO of Your Best Fit, a health and wellness company that provides fitness, nutrition, and design and management services for individuals, private clubs, luxury communities, and corporations.