WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Popular energy drinks such as the popular Red Bull and Rockstar brands have potentially hazardous effects on teens – especially when combined with alcohol.
A new report to be published in the February edition of the Pediatrics in Review medical journal finds that such heavily caffeinated beverages can cause high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, obesity and other medical problems in children and young adults.
And when combined with alcohol, the problems can be quite severe.
“I don’t think there is any sensationalism going on here. These drinks can be dangerous for teens,” lead author Dr. Kwabena Blankson, a U.S. Air Force major and an adolescent medicine specialist at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., told Web MD. “They contain too much caffeine and other additives that we don’t know enough about. Healthy eating, exercise and adequate sleep are better ways to get energy.”
Recent surveys have found that nearly half of teens consume unregulated caffeinated beverages in order to stay awake and alert.
According to Web MD, sixteen-ounce cans of Red Bull, Monster Energy Assault and Rockstar hold about 160 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, according to the report. However, a much smaller container of the drink Cocaine — briefly banned in 2007 — delivers 280 mg in just 8.4 ounces.
A standard cup of coffee contains about 100mg of caffeine.
Too much caffeine, Blankson said, “can have troubling side effects.” More than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day is considered unhealthy for teens.
The researchers noted that young people often mix energy drinks and alcoholic beverages, or buy energy drinks that contain alcohol. One-quarter of students surveyed at 10 North Carolina universities said they had consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol in the past month, the report noted. And 23 university students in New Jersey and nine in Washington state were hospitalized in 2010 after drinking an energy drink spiked with alcohol.
Recently, U.S. health officials have waded into the energy drink debate.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently reported that hospital visits related to the drinks doubled, to almost 21,000, between 2007 and 2011. About 42 percent of cases also included drug or alcohol use.