Energy Drinks Hepatitis Risk Outlined in Case Report

According to a recent case report outlined by medical researchers, health problems from energy drink may include an increased risk of hepatitis. 

Researchers with the University of Florida report a case of acute hepatitis linked to a common energy drink in a study published earlier this month in the medical journal BMJ Case Reports, warning that the case may be a sign that excessive energy drink consumption could carry unforeseen risks.

The case report involved a 50 year old male who was drinking four to five energy drinks per day for at least three weeks before he developed malaise, anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, generalized jaundice and other symptoms. He was diagnosed with chronic and acute hepatitis C.

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Doctors determined that his liver injury came directly following his excessive use of energy drinks, which he consumed to help him handle demanding construction work, and his liver problems resolved after he stopped consuming the energy drinks.

Researchers noted that this is the second case reported linking energy drink consumption to acute hepatitis.

“Nearly 50% of cases of acute liver failure in the USA are due to drug-induced liver injury (DILI),” the researchers noted. “The list of associated drugs and toxins has significantly expanded with the recognition of dietary and herbal supplements as offending agents. Unfortunately, an increasing number of Americans consume herbal supplements and energy drinks on a daily basis, with the misconception that their ‘natural ingredients’ must render them harmless.”

The researchers noted that about 23,000 emergency department visits each year are linked to adverse events caused by dietary supplements.

Energy Drink Health Concerns

As they have increased in popularity, there has been a growing concern over the possible side effects of energy drink consumption.

Energy drink manufacturers have compared the amount of caffeine in their products to that of hot beverages sold in coffee houses. However, the products are often packaged in very large sizes and they are not sold in controlled environments like coffee shops, which typically would not serve young children.

Monster, Rockstar, Red Bull and other popular energy drinks are widely available in convenience stores, often located next to traditional soft drinks and packaged in very similar cans.

Although most individuals believe them to be safe, often consuming large numbers of the energy drinks in short periods of times, many contain pharmaceutical grade caffeine and additional caffeine from other natural sources. This much caffeine in one serving can cause a person’s heart to beat rapidly, increase blood pressure, or other nervous, digestive or cardiovascular system side effects, health experts warn.

Some energy drinks in many of the popular lines contain up to 400 mg of caffeine per can. In comparison, a cup of coffee typically has around 100 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine poisoning can occur in adults at levels higher than 400 mg a day; however children under 12 can experience caffeine poisoning at only 2.5 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight.

In this latest case study, the researchers noted that vitamins and nutrients, including niacin, are often also present in energy drinks large quantities, far beyond the daily recommended intake, and that such levels can result in a high risk of toxicity.

The FDA is currently investigating health concerns surrounding the drinks, after a number of adverse event reports were submitted in recent years connecting energy drinks to severe injuries and deaths.

Amid aggressive marketing by the manufacturers, energy drink sales increased 240% between 2004 and 2009, and the number of caffeine overdose emergency room visits increased from 1,128 in 2005 to 16,055 in 2008. Approximately 56% of those visits involved individuals between the ages of 12 and 25 years.

Manufacturers face a growing number of lawsuits over Red Bull and other popular energy drinks, such as Monster, Rockstar and others, which allege that manufacturers failed to warn about the risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney problems and sudden death linked to the beverages.

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