Performance-enhancing energy drinks should carry prominent health warnings to protect young people from overdosing on caffeine, doctors said yesterday.
The warning follows research into 28 energy drinks that found some had up to 14 times the caffeine as a can of cola, or the same as seven cups of strong coffee.
The market for caffeine-rich energy drinks has exploded in recent years, causing some doctors concern at the lack of regulations on safe consumption. In the UK drinks with more than 150mg caffeine a litre must be labelled as “high caffeine content”, but there is no upper limit, nor do drinks need to carry warnings about the potential risks of caffeine overdose.
Roland Griffiths, at Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, surveyed caffeine levels in energy drinks in the US and found they varied from 50mg for Whoop Ass to 505mg for Wired X505. A can of cola has around 35mg and coffee around 75mg.
Cocaine Energy Drink, which was launched in the UK last month, contains 280mg while Red Bull has 80mg.
Griffiths said: “These drinks are being very aggressively marketed, often to kids interested in extreme sports.”
People who drink tea and coffee regularly build up a tolerance, but Griffiths said younger people are at risk of overdosing.
Writing in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Griffiths calls for energy drinks to carry the same warnings as caffeine pills, pointing out risks such as anxiety attacks, rapid heartbeats and nausea.
Jamey Kirby, of Redux Beverages, in Las Vegas, which makes the Cocaine Energy Drink, said: “Energy drinks are coming under attack because of the branding and marketing strategies. If we were hurting people, we’d be having our ass sued off.”