Researcher Falsely States That Energy Drinks Contain More Caffeine Than Coffee


Monster Beverage

Research by radiologists at the University of Bonn finds that caffeine in energy drinks has cardiovascular effects similar to those of caffeine in other beverages. That's not terribly surprising, but it is bound to be seen in a sinister light given the media-driven scare about these products, especially because one of the researchers incorrectly states that energy drinks contain more caffeine than coffee does. "The amount of caffeine is up to three times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola," said Jonas Dorner, who together with his collaborators presented the findings of a heart imaging study at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. "There are many side effects known to be associated with a high intake of caffeine, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and, in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden death."

The implication is pretty clear: Energy drinks pose a potentially deadly threat because they contain so much caffeine. Yet the drinks that Dorner and his colleagues gave their 18 subjects contained 32 milligrams of caffeine per 100 milliliters, compared to 76 milligrams per 100 milliliters for Starbucks coffee. So Starbucks coffee contains more than twice as much caffeine per milliliter as energy drinks, as opposed to one-third as much, as Dorner suggests. That's a pretty big mistake—and one that is likely to be repeated in future coverage of this issue because it jibes with the attention-grabbing claim that energy drinks are more dangerous than other caffeinated beverages.

In any event, the effects observed by Dorner and his colleagues are not very alarming:

Compared to the baseline images, results of cardiac MRI performed one hour after the study participants consumed the energy drink revealed significantly increased peak strain and peak systolic strain rates (measurements for contractility) in the left ventricle of the heart. The heart's left ventricle receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the aorta, which distributes it throughout the rest of the body.

"We don't know exactly how or if this greater contractility of the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance," Dr. Dorner said. "We need additional studies to understand this mechanism and to determine how long the effect of the energy drink lasts."

The researchers found no significant differences in heart rate, blood pressure or the amount of blood ejected from the left ventricle of the heart between the volunteers' baseline and second MRI exams.

"We've shown that energy drink consumption has a short-term impact on cardiac contractility," Dr. Dorner said. "Further studies are needed to evaluate the impact of long-term energy drink consumption and the effect of such drinks on individuals with heart disease."

In other words, this study does not document any harmful or lasting effects from consuming energy drinks. And if caffeine poses a risk to people with heart disease, that risk presumably would be greater in the case of coffee, which supplies a bigger dose. If the caffeine in coffee does not scare you, there is no reason, aside from alarmist press coverage, why the caffeine in energy drinks should.

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  1. But Monster Energy sounds scary and comes in a scary-looking container, while a cup of Starbucks looks and sounds happy and friendly. So Monster Energy is obviously much worse.

    1. Plus, the wrong kind of people drink Monster, while the right kind of people drink Starbucks.

      1. *ding* *ding* *ding*

      2. Jordan nailed it.

      3. Has Starbucks ever sponsored a menace as terrifying as Ken Block?

        I rest my case.

    2. Monster is produced by faceless, evil corpthuglicans, while Starbucks loves trees and puppies.

  2. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, I put off thinking of my science fair experiment until the last minute. My “I can pull this off in a day” experiment was to have my family play Tetris on my Game Boy, take their blood pressure before, during, and after, and record the results. Recorded a blood pressure increase as a result of the game. Ergo, Tetris should’ve been banned along with Monster energy drinks, right?

    1. You could have had a very successful career as a government regulator.

    2. Jesus… I hope you were properly licensed and trained in the use of that blood pressure thingy.

      1. Sphygmomanometer.

        1. Sphygmomanometer? I barely knew her!

          1. Sicko.

        2. Game Boy? More like Death Machine!

  3. What I don’t get is how so many people are willing to buy and drink such invariably nasty-tasting stuff as this.

    1. I don’t get it either – but if you ever saw a run on a PX in Afghanistan or Iraq when some came in….ugh. Desperate men, with guns and armor, charging in to get cases of that dreck. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t now.

    2. Take pity, Jon, they know now what they do. Thankfully their betters in Congress will enlighten them.

    3. Indeed. That applies to pressed bean juice (coffee) as well.

      1. You seem to have a rather fundamental misunderstanding of how coffee is made.

        1. Indeed. The real process involves straining raw sewage through a used sweatsock.

          1. Some sort of connoisseur, I see.

        2. Bean infused water. Same thing.

          1. You missed the roasting which is the most important part.

      2. Indeed. That applies to pressed bean juice (coffee) as well.

        And beer. :-p

    4. I presume that you’re talking about coffee here cause that is the truly vile tasting drink.

      Original Monster is OK but their Khaos and Rehab drinks are much better the best by far is the Full Throttle Blue Agave and Mountain Dew Amp Boost (preferably the grape but the original is good too)

      1. 2nd’ing the monster rehab love. The cranberry one is delicious, and I’ve tried mixing tea and cranberry juice myself but the flavor just isn’t right.

    5. OK, everyone, repeat after me (as appropriate):

      “I don’t like energy drinks” or
      “I don’t like coffee”

      It’s really not that hard to accept that other people might enjoy flavors that you do not.

      1. It’s been all downhill since Jolt left the market.

        1. I did drink Jolt back in the day, and I really don’t think there’s any comparison between that and the stuff marketed as enecrgy drinks. Now I don’t drink any non-alcoholic carbonated drink. I do like my coffee, though.

        2. They never left.

          1. Heck if I can remember seeing Jolt in aeons. I also recall three-liter sodas. Now there was a study aid.

        3. All the sugar and twice the caffeine!

          Boy, there was nothing better than a mosh-pit full of us, all hopped up on Jolt. Naked Raygun wailing away on a six inch stage, in the basement of some building in Muncie, IN. Eight foot ceilings, no windows. Big Black takes the stage, and Steve Albini drops a large cardboard box full of fireworks in the middle of the floor and lights the box on fire. Moshing in a cloud of acrid smoke, being pelted by sparks, molten plastic, and burning paper…

          Then we went and drank more Jolt, and vandalized every building, sign, and car we encountered all the way home.

          1. This sounds like Jeff Noon levels of fun.

        4. Pure caffeine is very cheap and not too hard to find. You can very easily make any beverage just as caffeinated as you want.

      2. Stop leaving out those of us who hate both, you beverageonormative bastard. This microaggression will not stand!

        1. I didn’t say you had to pick just one.

          1. By not specifically including the beverage bi and queer you are aggressing against them.

            1. I always use “or” in the inclusive sense.

  4. “That’s a pretty big mistake”
    You misspelled “lie”.

  5. I miss 4loko. A 4loko fueled bender was how I met my significant other. If caffeine, booze, and sugar weren’t meant to be together then neither are we!

    1. Now that I recall I only bought the 4loko because I read an article here regarding the impending ban. I guess that forbidden fruit thing is real. If they want to regulate or ban something I always want to try it. If only to be able to say “I remember when XXX was legal”.

      However, they can have these energy drinks. Sophisticated people drink coffee. Energy drinks are for the unwashed masses.

      1. I bought a can when they were starting the banhammer BS. Wow, that was (and still is, presumably) some nasty stuff.

    2. You know, this makes me feel better that I’ll never know my “how my parents met” story.

      1. well you see there was a man test tube and a lady test tube…

      2. Well, see, yer father was taking some R&R in Thailand and I was doing a show . . .

    3. I saw it in a store the other day, but it only had 5% alcohol and I’m not sure about caffeine.

      1. They removed the caffeine and reduced the alcohol. The real deal was 12% and 300mg of caffeine.

        1. SO why would anyone buy it now when Koolaid and cheap vodka exist?

          1. Koolaid, vodka, *and* cough syrup.

            1. vodka and redbull, dude.

  6. Jacob, Jacob, Jacob. The phrase “is up to three times higher” could mean anything less than three times, including 0.5 times. Technically, the scientist did not lie or make a mistake. They simply misled (possibly willfully).

    1. “Technically, the scientist did not lie or make a mistake.”

      O’care’s web site is much improved!

    2. It is a very weaselly statement: “The amount of caffeine is up to three times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola,”

      Since it also says “like coffee or cola” the comparison isn’t necessarily to coffee at all, but to beverages that have caffeine as coffee does.

      It’s like an ad I saw once for a big sale at some store with “up to 70% off or more”, which means absolutely nothing.

      1. Reminds me of sports commentators who, intending to praise a player, will say something like, “John Smith may very well be one of the best players at his position today.”

        1. “Soothes as it moisturizes!”

        2. I always did like him.

    3. the operative phrase is “further study is needed” further study is always needed how else can I justify my “bullshit” job researching stuff no one gives a crap about

  7. I do not drink coffee, so I will ask those who do: is a Starbucks coffee a fair comparison here? I only ask because, I can imagine some unfair baselines in things like this (for example, if someone said ‘product X is said to have more fat than a hamburger, but it actually has less than a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder’ might not be a fair statement).

    1. Starbucks is a fair comparison. Starbucks heavily roasted beans may actually have less caffeine than some hearty scoops of Folgers. A Starbucks “dessert-style” drink would probably have more sugar and caffeine than a similar-sized energy drink. And the Starbucks has fat in it too.

      1. Thanks.

      2. A company whose entire strategy is to sell milkshakes that aren’t called milkshakes at high prices. Insidious. And with burned beans, too!

    2. To be clear, I could care less if it were full of crack cocaine I do not think anyone should prohibit its sales. Just curious.

      1. oooh, oooh, where can I get some of that?

        1. Coca-Cola originally had cocaine in it.

    3. The one other question I would ask is what the serving size is. Jacob lists the caffeine per 100 mL, but when I drink a glass of wine it’s less liquid than a cup of coffee which is less than a glass of water.

      I don’t think the energy drinks are that much bigger to make up the difference, though.

  8. Bonn just hasn’t been the same since they shut down the base.

  9. Has anyone seen the prices of brand name energy drinks now? It’s insane that anyone would spend that much on them. You can get the same ingredients in a generic company for around $1. Aldi’s, Dollar Stores….all the same. The 5 hour Energy shots from a name brand are 3 dollars!!!

    1. With SodaStream becoming almost ubiquitous, I suspect death-by-caffeine syrups or even homemade varieties are an option, too.

      1. So SodaStream is the 3D Printer of the caffeinated drink world…

    2. Not sure about the 5 hour energy shots since I don’t drink them but the costs of Monster/Full Throttle/AMP etc are actually coming down.

      You never used to be able to find them for under $2.00 a can and $2.50 was the average price. These days I can almost always find one variety or another at $2 a can and the base price for the Mt Dew AMP seems to have fallen to $1.75 a can with it sometimes being on sale as low as $1.25 a can.

      1. everything seems to be going up here in PA…..used to be 1.99 a can on average now it keeps going to 2.29, 2.49, 2.99. even 3.99 at Turkey hills

  10. so the science is settled here, too?

  11. Never let facts get in the way of a good moral panic.

  12. For the study, which is ongoing, Dr. Dorner and colleagues used cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the effect of energy drink consumption on heart function in 18 healthy volunteers

    It’s not a study if you can fit all your subjects in just one room.

    1. it’s not a study if I can get my fist all the way up your ass and grab your tonsils either

    2. Not a good one, anyway.

  13. Researchers give misleading summation of their work. News at 11!!

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