Nanny State

It Turns Out Nonalcoholic Energy Drinks Are Also an Intolerable Threat to the Youth of America

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Mary Claire O'Brien, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine who helped foment the moral panic that led the FDA to ban Four Loko and three other brands of caffeinated malt beverages last fall, says the fight against demonic drinks is far from over. "These premixed alcoholic energy drinks are only a fraction of the true public health risk," she and co-author Amelia Arria, a researcher at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, warn in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association commentary. "Regular (nonalcoholic) energy drinks might pose just as great a threat to individual and public health and safety." O'Brien and Arria offer "3 reasons" for this conclusion:

First, caffeine has been clearly associated with adverse health effects in susceptible individuals…. Second, the practice of mixing energy drinks with alcohol—which is more widespread than generally recognized—has been linked consistently to drinking high volumes of alcohol per drinking session and subsequent serious alcohol-related consequences such as sexual assault and driving while intoxicated….Third, regardless of whether energy drinks are mixed with alcohol, recent research suggests that, even after adjustment for potential confounders such as heavier drinking patterns, energy drink use might confer a risk for alcohol dependence and perhaps nonmedical prescription drug use.

Then again, it might not. Like the association between caffeinated cocktails and risky behavior, the association between energy drink consumption and alcohol dependence may have more to do with the pre-existing characteristics of people who favor these beverages than the psychoactive effects of caffeine. O'Brien and Arria concede as much, although they also raise the "concerning" possibility that "caffeine's neuropharmacologic effects might play a role in the propensity for addiction." The title of their piece, "The 'High' Risk of Energy Drinks," allows them to mislead the public about the magnitude of the danger while hiding behind a pun.

A new article in Pediatrics seconds the nomination of energy drinks as the latest lethal liquid threatening the youth of America:

Although healthy people can tolerate caffeine in moderation, heavy caffeine consumption, such as drinking energy drinks, has been associated with even more serious consequences such as seizures, mania, stroke, and sudden death….Children, especially those with cardiovascular, renal, or liver disease, seizures, diabetes, mood and behavioral disorders, or hyperthyroidism or those who take certain medications, may be at higher risk for adverse events from energy-drink consumption….Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and both the known and unknown pharmacology of various ingredients, combined with reports of toxicity, suggest that these drinks may put some children at risk for serious adverse health effects….Unless research establishes energy-drink safety in children and adolescents, regulation, as with tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications, is prudent.

Note that the authors, researchers at the University of Miami, equate "heavy caffeine consumption" with "drinking energy drinks," even though the leading brands contain considerably less caffeine than coffee does. Red Bull, for example, has 9.5 milligrams of caffeine per fluid ounce, while RockStar has 10, compared to about 18 for drip coffee. "In healthy adults," the article says, "a caffeine intake of 400 mg/day is considered safe," while "adolescent and child caffeine consumption should not exceed 100 mg/day." Since a can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine (comfortably below the recommended limit for children and adolescents) and a short coffee from Starbucks has 180 (far above it), the focus on energy drinks—which the authors suggest should be restricted like cigarettes, alcohol, or maybe Valium—is puzzling, especially since, by their own account, American teenagers typically do not consume very much caffeine.  "In the United States," the article says, "adolescent caffeine intake averages 60 to 70 mg/day." But why let that stand in the way of a good panic?

Look for my dissection of the Four Loko freakout in the March issue of Reason.

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65 responses to “It Turns Out Nonalcoholic Energy Drinks Are Also an Intolerable Threat to the Youth of America

  1. Some people are susceptible to peanut allergies. The very old and the very young are at the greatest risk, possibly maybe including death after exposure. Therefore we should ban peanuts.

    1. You may notice that they don’t give out peanuts on airplanes anymore. And a lot of schools ban them for exactly this reason.

      1. This is false. You have a choice, though, of three things on Delta flights, at least.

        1. We had a girl with a peanut allergy on a Delta flight once, and the entire plane was prevented from ordering peanuts because of her.

          Luckily I had my own peanuts and was able to toss them in her direction from four rows back. The one that landed in her hair didn’t seem to cause her any trouble, the big baby…

  2. Exactly what panic would that be? The second line in the second paragraph of the first study? “More research that can guide actions of regulatory agencies is needed.”

    Oh no, maybe from the Pediatrics article. “Long-term research should aim to understand the effects in at-risk populations. Toxicity surveillance should be improved, and regulations of energy-drink sales and consumption should be based on appropriate research.”

    RUN RUN RUN FOR THE HILLS!@# But don’t forget to take your strawman with you.

    1. RTFA:

      Unless research establishes energy-drink safety in children and adolescents, regulation, as with tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications, is prudent.

    2. How much of a complete tool do you have to be to support regulation of energy drinks? Congratulations, you are a complete fucking tool.

      1. Hell Epi, does a hammer understand that it is a tool? How about a whole box of them? Anyone like good ol’ Don here that imagines regulation just needs better research in order to save us from ourselves…

    3. “More research that can guide actions of regulatory agencies is needed.” and “Long-term research should aim to understand the effects in at-risk populations.”

      I wonder if she has anyone in mind who would be ideally situated to cash the checks perform said research.

  3. Writing articles in Pediatrics likewise provides no therapeutic benefit, so doing that should also be banned.

  4. “Mary Claire O’Brien, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine who helped foment the moral panic that led the FDA to ban Four Loko and three other brands of caffeinated malt beverages last fall, says the fight against demonic drinks is far from over. ”

    This is OT, but has anyone else noticed that Bill O’Reilly says “forment” when he means “foment”? He has been saying it a lot lately vis a vis the Muslim Brotherhood and it is driving me fucking crazy.

    1. I always thought it was “ferment” until an English professor pulled down my pants and raped me with a bit and brace when I said that.

      1. Oh, those wacky Brits.

  5. Forget children. I’m 44, and those things rip my stomach apart. But then again, so does OJ.

    1. head-see any balding kids? 😉

      1. you are rectal.

        1. copy my style?

      2. Before, I had herpes on my head. Where else would you have herpes, on your dick?

        1. I liked the Farah hairstyle dogs routine

    2. OJ Simpson stabbed you in the tummy?

  6. It’s a shame these people are able to influence public policy. Since the dawn of man, people have looked for ways to get a buzz or stay alert. People in ancient Egypt discovered alcohol when bread fermented. People in Asia did something similar. People have chewed khat for hundreds of years. Priests in ancient times drank wine.

    When will these busybodies realize that euphoria is a part of human nature, whether it’s a high or a low?

    By the way, bee stings can be deadly. Honey production needs to be banned for teh childrunz. Peanuts should be banned for teh childrunz. Bicycles can cause adrenaline rushes leading to dangerous behavior later in life. Ban em. Ban cars, motorcycles, boats, airplanes, big wheels, radio flyers, walkers, sit-n-spins, etc. Anything that gets some adrenaline flowing can “lead to” a rush of excitement that could develop into dangerous thrill-seeking behavior later in life. It’s just not worth the risk!!!11!ONE.

    Fucking busybody assholes.

  7. WOn’t somebody think of the children?!?!?!

  8. First, [substance] has been clearly associated with adverse health effects in susceptible individuals

    Doctor Obvious strikes again.

  9. “Might”, “could”, “may”, “perhaps”, “possibly”, “potentially” and sometimes “theoretically”.

    Use as needed to make whatever point you wish about anything as you see fit.

    That is all.

  10. “The nagging fear that someone, somewhere… et c.”

  11. regardless of whether energy drinks are mixed with alcohol, recent research suggests that, even after adjustment for potential confounders such as heavier drinking patterns, energy drink use might confer a risk for alcohol dependence and perhaps nonmedical prescription drug use.

    What

    the

    fuck?

    No Vampirism or Lycanthropy?

    1. Now now, let’s not jump to speculative conclusions. Besides, the next dangers to check on would logically be hairy palms and blindness.

  12. Wait…are they seriously saying that energy drinks lead to alcohol dependency even if they are not consumed with alcohol? I’d like to see the “recent research” that “suggests” that.

    1. They didn’t say it does, only that it might.

      1. “Linked”
        That’s the term.
        “Pool. Begins with a P, that rhymes with T and that spells Trouble. Right here in River City”

        1. for the philistines and children in the audience:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI_Oe-jtgdI

      2. I guess this means that the 5-6 cups of coffee I drink at work each day may turn me into an alcoholic. Amazing!

        This research wouldn’t by chance come from the same lab that gave us the global warming data, would it?

    2. A gateway drug??? A fucking gateway drug??? You have got to be fucking kidding me????

  13. “Now, I’m not saying it was the Red Bull and Jaegermeister that brought down Building Number Seven. But I’m not saying it wasn’t.”

    1. If it wasn’t Red Bull and Jaegermeister, why haven’t they denied it yet?

    2. Can we come up with some derisive name for these dumbasses along those lines? Like “fourlokers” or something?

      1. Harold Hills?

      2. Harold Hills?

  14. I despise energy drinks. You know how I deal with it? I don’t buy them.

  15. So, we have to ban the caffeine (legal substance) to stop people from mixing it with the alcohol (also a legal substance) to create a hybrid drink (again, a legal substance)?

    What?

    Have… have I been drugged?

    1. Shut up and drink the kool-aid.

      1. I’m getting tempted, that shit looks nice’n’strong.

  16. Mark my words, the Soda lobby is behind the war on energy drinks.

    1. Rent-Seeking Bastages!

    2. Soda companies make a lot of the energy drinks. IIRC, Rockstar is owned by Coca-cola.

  17. Shut that cunt O’Brien’s mouth or I’ll come over there and fuckstart her head!

  18. I have been drinking caffeine things since I was three, and in all these years I have found out it is impossibly hard to get fucked up by caffeine. I’ve had some weird experiences but I associate them with things like anxiety or cold medications in combination with a late night cup of tea or something. Always at night.

  19. Energy Drinks aren’t going to be banned. They’ve been around too long. Once people get accustomed to seeing something in the market, without any obvious adverse affects, it’s presumed safe, and is much harder to ban.

    It’s much easier to ban things that are novel than those that are not. Alcoholic Energy drinks were novel, energy drinks are no longer novel.

    Tobacco for example, not that I favor banning it, but it’s been a 50 year uphill battle for tobacco opponents, and that WITH lots of evidence of harm. If the colonists had outlawed the demon weed in the 1700s, on the other hand, when it was novel, it would probably be some kind of sacred indian ceremonial substance that only posh bohemians can get their hands on.

  20. They can have my 5-Hour Energy when they pry my cold, dead fingers from around the awesomeness of the little red and yellow 2 ounce bottle.

    1. But could they please find some way to make them not taste so goddamn awful? Seriously, they taste like day-old dog urine.

      1. Um, how do you know what day old dog urine tastes like?

        Also, that damn busybody Obrian needs to shut the hell up and find something useful to do.

  21. Yeah, way to try and make me feel like some freak of nature. one and a half to two pots of coffee (or more) a day for 25 years, and I still have yet to mug some old woman with a tire iron to get some scratch to buy some horse. Hate alcohol, and don’t drink the stuff, either.

    If these credentialed morons want to seek some attention, they’d do better by putting on Daffy Duck outfits and running around the student quad or some equally socially useful activity.

  22. They better not fuck with my coffee.

  23. “YEAAGAH BOMBS!!!”

  24. But the slippery slope argument should be dismissed out of hand.

    1. Ignore that whooshing noise and the headlong-rushing sensation.

  25. This is fucking ridiculous, people can make their own decisions. These government fucks act like they’re somehow above humans, that they can make these decisions but we can’t. We are not children, if I want to ruin my body with energy drinks and extremely unhealthy food, that is my right. The only important thing is that we know what is and what isn’t good for us, after that it is our choice. Some of us don’t want to live to 90, I sure don’t want to, what’s the point of life when all you can do is shit yourself and sit at home all day? It would be better for our society for everyone to be glutenous and die early. The emotional distress of an early death is nothing compared to the constant distress caused by idiots telling me I’m not allowed to make my own decisions. Help us learn, don’t take anything away from us.

    1. Oh and I just read somebody mention coffee, which has to be 100x worse than energy drinks. Energy drinks are well calculated amounts of vitamins and healthy plant extracts, and with responsible consumption never make me feel like shit. Coffee on the other hand, who knows what all you’re straining through those beans, or how much caffeine is in there, etc. Just proves how hypocritical and egotistical these assholes are. Anything they enjoy has to be good and anything they don’t understand must be banned! These are the kids that get beat up in school. The douchebag know it all’s nobody likes. They’re still the same people and I still want to kick they’re asses.

  26. For all the people saying ‘its ridiculous’….no…whats ridiculous is when 1 in 4 kids are suddenly starting to be diagnosed with shit like ADD/adhd in the last generation or so and 1 in 3 children are obese. Let’s see, little billy woke up this morning, ate a big bowl of sugar, ate sugary snack and a soda at school, and put down a monster or two after school, while eating even more crap food. But strangely, nobody can figure out why little billy can’t pay attention to anything but quick moving twitch games on his xbox, doesnt sleep for crap and weighs 3x what a child his age should weigh.

    Anyone with half a brain wouldn’t drink a big can of liquified candybars, but but call it something aggressive like ‘monster’, or something cool like ‘rockstar’ and people will gladly pour that same amount of sugar and calories down their throats. That’s where the ridiculous part comes in. People are too stupid to think for themselves, thats how products like this become so big.

    1. [citation needed] on a link between sugar and hyperactivity. good luck with that one, you’ll need it.

  27. How much of a complete tool do you have to be to support regulation of energy drinks? thanks for sharing with us…
    Healthy Energy Drinks

  28. One thing is to interfere in people’s choices about what they eat or drink but on the other hand pointing out the possible threat caused by these drinks is much needed.

  29. Everything we eat and drink is processed by the liver. Asking it to work harder processing alcohol, caffeine, etc in energy drinks only puts you on the fast track to a toxic liver. It’s more difficult to get rid of toxins than to avoid unhealthy drink choices in the first place. Do your research – there are many healthy choices out there. http://healthyliverfoods.com/

  30. THis is amazing thanx ^^

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