Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster Energy, 5-Hour Energy are popular among a certain section of people but recent medical reports have suggested that these drinks contain ingredients that can be harmful.

Energy drinks are suspected to have caused the deaths of three teens — as well as serious side effects such as irregular heartbeat and amnesia in 35 other Canadians — since 2003, according to reports filed with Health Canada.

The three male teens, two 15-year-olds and an 18-year-old, died after drinking Red Bull, which appears in more side-effect reports than any other similar product.
In one of these cases, the death of a 15-year-old in 2006, Monster Energy was also consumed.

“I am not shocked to hear of the deaths that are coming to the surface now,” Toronto’s Jim Shepherd told the Toronto Star. Shepherd’s 15-year-old son Brian died Jan. 6, 2008, after drinking a can of Red Bull during a paintball tournament. He collapsed at the awards banquet that night.

Shepherd said the coroner ruled Brian died from sudden arrhythmic death syndrome. He believes Red Bull contributed to his son’s irregular heartbeat and death.

Health Canada and the energy drink companies said the side-effect reports show only a suspected connection between a product and side effect but no medical proof that one caused the other. (A report is the opinion of the consumer, pharmacist, doctor or nurse that a drug or energy drink is suspected to have caused a side effect.)

Here in Surrey as well youngsters consume energy drinks but no casualties have been reported so far. Karm Dosanjh who is a soccer coach with one of the clubs at the Newton Athletic Park in Surrey says he always tells his players to have milk and juice and avoid energy drinks. “I think some people feel they get a kick after having these drinks but it is more of an artificial kick. I think mostly youngsters have these energy drinks at parties or discos,” says Dosanjh.

Another youngster from Surrey, Harpreet, who plays in a cricket club in Vancouver says most of his team mates have Gatorade which is actually a sports drink and does not contain any caffeine at all. “Even if you watch matches on TV you will see players of most countries drink Gatorade which is a pure health and sports drink. No of our players drinks Red Bull or Monster as these are party drinks,” he says.

“Because a product or ingredient is listed on an adverse events report it in no way confirms or even implies a causal link,” beverage association spokeswoman Stephanie Baxter told the Toronto Star. “There can be a multitude of items listed on each report and a full review of the event is required to determine which, if any, played a role.”

Last week, reports emerged of 13 deaths in the U.S. possibly linked to 5-hour Energy, a caffeinated energy shot also sold in Canada.

5-Hour Energy is distributed by Farmington Hills-based Living Essentials and is the creation of Farmington Hills billionaire Manoj Bhargava.

Bhargava told the Free Press earlier this year that his company sells 9 million bottles of the product a week in the U.S. and Canada, with annual sales revenue exceeding $1 billion. The product’s lab and production facility in Wabash, Ind., employs about 300 people.

Living Essentials LLC stands by their conviction that 5-Hour Energy is not the cause of any of the health problems reported to the FDA. The group says, when used as directed, 5-Hour Energy is safe.

This part is also important. Irresponsible use of any substance can prove to be harmful.

5-Hour Energy is sold as a two-ounce “shot.” The company does not disclose how much caffeine is in each shot, but different consumer reports estimate one bottle contains somewhere between 200 and 215 milligrams of caffeine, twice as much as your average cup of coffee and almost three times as much caffeine as a small can of Red Bull. Though that is still far less than a fatal dose of caffeine, some people have unusual sensitivity to the drug. 5-Hour Energy also contains very high levels of certain B vitamins and a substance called taurine, The New York Times reports. The product’s label recommends that it not be used by pregnant women or children under the age of 12 and that consumers drink no more than two shots a day, spaced several hours apart.

In Canada, some provinces are looking at putting limits on the sale of energy drinks.

The energy drinks include, among other ingredients, caffeine, taurine, and vitamins B6 and B12. On the cans, near the mention of “recommended dose” and list of “medicinal” ingredients, are cautions that the drink is not recommended for children or pregnant women.

The 5-Hour Energy label says it shouldn’t be consumed by anyone under the age of 14.

But most youngsters don’t care to read the labels. Our view is that youngsters should stay away from such energy drinks and those who drink them at all should do this in moderation. Other things like milk and juice are a much better choice.