Energy drink dangers

By: Greg Hunter, CNN
By: Greg Hunter, CNN

Energy drinks are now a multi-billion dollar business, but as some doctors and nutritionists have pointed out, they could pose potential health risks, particularly for teenagers.

In the span of a week, 18 Doherty High School students in Colorado Springs, Colo., reported becoming sick after drinking an energy drink called Spike Shooter.

How did these students get sick?

"Fell over," said one student.

"I went to the hospital," said another student.

"Aching stomach," answered a third student.

Principal Jill Martin became so alarmed, she banned the drink on campus and convinced the nearby convenience store to pull it off the shelves.

"If this product is so potent that you have to read the instructions and consider whether to drink it or not, something is wrong," Martin said.

The label warns: Those under 18 and anyone with health concerns should not use. Despite the warning, 14-year-old Rachel Woodrow, a diabetic, drank one can and started shaking. Two days later, she was hospitalized for a seizure. Woodrow's parents said doctors told them the drink increased her metabolism and may have triggered the seizure. Woodrow admits she didn't read the label.

"I thought it would make me feel hyper and everything, but I didn't think I would have a seizure," Woodrow said.

Another student wanted to get a little hyper by drinking Spike Shooter, but instead, "My stomach started to cramp up. I had a headache and I started vomiting," student Chris Weir said.

The manufacturer of Spike Shooter called the Colorado cases isolated incidents of what they call abuse of minors drinking too much Spike, and said they've received zero complaints nationwide since then. The manufacturer also added, "Spike continues to be proactive in working with retailers to ensure that all energy drinks, including Spike, are consumed responsibly."

Most energy drinks contain significant amounts of caffeine, although some energy drinks like Red Bull have even less caffeine than a cup of coffee. An eight-ounce cup of coffee has anywhere from 80 to 130 milligrams of caffeine. An 8.3-ounce can of Red Bull has 80 milligrams. An 8.0-ounce can of Red Line has 250 milligrams. And 8.4-ounce can of Spike Shooter has 300 milligrams of caffeine.

As a reporter, I wanted to see what would happen if I drank one can of Spike Shooter, which along with caffeine, has supplements like yohimbine, which is thought by some to enhance sexual performance. I drink a few cups of coffee every day, and I have a healthy heart history.

A heart doctor hooked me up to an EKG and measured my vital signs before and after drinking Spike Shooter. Before my heart rate was normal, but 45 minutes later my blood pressure went up significantly and the doctor also noticed I developed a slight irregular heartbeat.

"In healthy individuals, they may be able to tolerate it. But people have heart disease, it's not advisable," Cardiologist Dr. Raymonda Rastegar said.

The manufacturer of Spike Shooter declined to comment on our test. Some drinks have yohimbine; guarana, a natural type of caffeine; taurine and ginseng. These are just a few of the herbal supplements not regulated by the FDA.

"We don't know the effects of these on the body," Rastegar said.

Nutritionist Molly Morgan wants more research on the effects of these ingredients.

"There's little to no information about what's the threshold. How much is too much?" Morgan said.

And one thing to point out: There are no laws like they have with tobacco and alcohol that stop underage kids from buying these energy drinks.

Greg Hunter, CNN, New York.


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