Coffee Research Casts Further Doubt on Warnings About Energy Drinks

How can 240 milligrams of caffeine per day be lethal when 750 is healthy?



In a New York Times article posted on Monday, Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, reviews the epidemiological research on the health effects of coffee consumption and finds little evidence of harm. In fact, there is pretty strong evidence suggesting that drinking coffee is good for your health. The research is especially interesting in light of recent attempts by various news outlets, conspicuously including the Times, to stir up alarm about the allegedly lethal dangers of caffeine in energy drinks, which contain less of the stimulant per ounce than coffee does.

During the last few years, New York Times business reporter Barry Meier has repeatedly warned that energy drinks can trigger fatal cardiovascular reactions. Yet as Carroll notes, a 2013 meta-analysis of "36 studies involving more than 1,270,000 participants" that looked at the relationship between coffee consumption and cardiovascular health "showed that those who consumed a moderate amount of coffee, about three to five cups a day, were at the lowest risk for problems," while "those who consumed five or more cups a day had no higher risk than those who consumed none." An eight-ounce cup of coffee (the usual definition in these studies) typically contains between 100 and 200 milligrams of caffeine. Assuming an average of about 150, three to five cups contain 450 to 750 milligrams of caffeine. That is the level of daily consumption associated with the lowest cardiovascular risk in these studies.

By comparison, eight ounces of Monster energy drink contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, about half as much as coffee. A 16-ounce can contains 160 milligrams, and a 24-ounce can contains 240. In light of the epidemiological data, the notion that two 24-ounce cans, drunk a day apart, would be enough to cause a fatal cardiac arrythmia through "caffeine toxicity"—as alleged in the case of Maryland teenager Anais Fournier—seems implausible, to say the least. Even the two-day caffeine total (480 milligrams) is toward the low end of the healthiest range for daily consumption in the coffee studies. If that amount of Monster energy drink were potentially lethal, drinking a tall (12-ounce) Starbucks coffee on each of two consecutive days, thereby consuming 520 milligrams of caffeine, would be even more dangerous. I may have missed them, but I do not recall any lawsuits claiming that Starbucks is killing teenagers by selling them coffee. 

Fournier suffered from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that affects blood vessels and the heart. If that condition made her especially vulnerable to the effects of caffeine, it is puzzling that she "had no restrictions on her diet or physical activity," as The Detroit News reports. Monster's lawyers argue that her pre-existing health problems caused her death and that its product was not even a contributing factor. In any case, if this sort of thing happened often enough to be a forseeable effect of consuming caffeine, it should be reflected in the epidemiological studies of coffee drinkers. Instead they look, if anything, healthier than abstainers, even when consuming the caffeine equivalent of three 24-ounce energy drinks a day.

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  1. So, basically Time looked at the can and thought, “Monster, claws, neon green slime color” and assessed it’s level of threat the same way a four-year old would.

    1. Just as they would an “assault” rifle.

      1. You mean an “assault weapon” ? an assault rifle is a “selective firm rifle firing an intermediate cartridge with a detachable magazine”.

        1. Selective fire.

  2. Well, see the energy drink caffeine is homeopathically energized with a negative charge, and everyone knows that potentiates dangerous free radical chain reactions. QED.

    1. Negative charges cause positive feedback loops! Its just like global warming.

  3. “Energy drink” caffeine is teh GMO!!!!! Coffee caffeine is nature. So…..kinda obvious there’s a difference in effect.


    1. Don’t tell them that almost all pure caffeine on the market comes from coffee or tea. Gotta do something with all the stuff from decaffeinated coffee.

  4. But Monster is marketed towards kids! Look at those bright colors. If it saves even one child, wouldn’t imprisoning everybody selling Monster Energy be worth it?

    1. I like sugar-free Monster in the white cans and drink a couple of them a day, Everyone I work with always is telling me how I shouldn’t drink them and they are dangerous. Not quite sure how everyone became such experts, but apparently the Times is now too.

  5. Alarmist’s rarely confront the fact that dosage vs. danger is not a linear relationship and that in a lot of cases, a hormetic effect exists. Radiation, which I am most familiar with, displays this exact relationship. Good luck changing the minds of those who stand to gain something by ignoring this fact. It’s too bad the TOP MEN who make the rules typically have something to gain by banning rather than understanding.

    1. I mistakenly read “hormetic” as “homoerotic.”

      Your comment became less informative but utterly more entertaining.

      1. What you do in the bedroom is your business, god damn it.

        1. If you’re messing around with radiation in your bedroom then it becomes my business damnit.

  6. This reminds me of when Nanny Bloomberg went crazy with his anti-soda crusade. Soda does in fact contain a ton of sugar, but when compared to say, a Starbucks Mocha Latte (with a dollop of whipped cream, essentially making it a coffee milkshake), soda was downright healthy.

    Soda gets banned, Starbucks is cool because……FUCK YOU THAT’S WHY.

    1. Soda is what poor blacks drink.

      Starbucks is what affluent whites drink.

      Soda needs to be banned to keep poor blacks from wasting their money on frivolities, allow them to stay off the streets and away from a life of crime, and allow them to work hard so they can earn the money to rise out of poverty.

      Fancy coffee drinks do not need to be banned because they are consumed by affluent whites who can afford frivolities to perk them up and prepare them for a day of working hard.

      What do you want, Negro caffeine “fiends” menacing society? Don’t you know that the caffeine in soda makes them immune to bullets and better marksmen?

      1. “Soda needs to be banned to keep poor blacks from wasting their money on frivolities, allow them to stay off the streets and away from a life of crime, and allow them to work hard so they can earn the money to rise out of poverty.”

        That sounds better than the likely reason, which is that soda is horribly tacky

    2. So your solution is to ban Starbucks? I may be okay with that…

    3. Either that or Starbucks is expensive, so it already discourages over-consumption.

      I think that the soda tax is a terrible thing, don’t get me wrong. And I am sure condescending paternalism plays a role. But there are other differences between soda and fancy coffee drinks besides who drinks them.

      1. Maybe so but if the ostensible purpose of the ban was to encourage people not to drink overly sugared drinks in large amounts then by any reasonable measure a Starbucks Latte should also be on that list.

        But it wasn’t. I realize one is more expensive than the other, but not by that much.

        For comparison a can of coke contains 39 grams of sugar, a Caramel Brulee Latte contains 52 grams of sugar. Even the Iced Green Tea Latte contains 49 grams of sugar.

        Fuck you, that’s why.

    4. Nanny Bloomberg went crazy with his anti-soda crusade

      Nanny Deblasio has turned that into a generic anti-sugary drink crusade (never mentioning coffee drinks, of course). “Drink water, skim milk, or [some other thing that tastes like shit whose name I forgot] instead”.

      1. Skim milk is still sugar water. They don’t skim off the sugars.

        Nonfat yogurt can go fuck itself.

      2. I thought I read something last year about Bloomberg’s complete hypocrisy on the junk food crusade because he is notorious for absolutely covering everything he eats in salt. I think an anonymous staffer actually was quoted as saying he puts so much salt on things that it actually burns the tongue.

        1. why aren’t salt shakers illegal in NYC?

  7. Not sure if this is considered “breaking news”, but I just walked by a TV with CNBC on it flashing the headline “Chicago Downgraded to Junk Status.

    Reason? What say you?

    1. It wasn’t junk status already?

      1. Honestly, I thought it was at ‘progressive’ status which, according to my scale, is worse.


        AAA – You’ll get your money back unless the sun explodes.
        AA – you’ll probably never see it, but there’s an outside chance you might.
        A – Bought from a guy out of the back of a van.
        Junk – eligible for a massive bailout.
        Progressive – You… you invested in that?

        1. Yep….

          “Chicago – meet Detroit. Detroit – Chicago.

          You two have a LOT to talk about, so Ima just leave you alone….”

          1. Chicago: “Red Wings suck! Blackhawks rule!”
            Detroit: BLAM BLAM BLAM
            Chicago: *writhes and requires for a moment, then falls still in pool of it’s own blood*

            1. *twitches

    2. Apparently Rahm is having a conniption fit over it.

      Yummy, yummy tears.

      1. To be fair, Rahm has attempted to make some modest reforms, and been blocked at every step of the way.

        Reforms to programs Rahm undoubtedly would have or did support at their inception. But we don’t “go” through life, we “grow” through life. If that’s what it takes for Rahm to see the light, then so be it.

    3. The Cubs are second in their division. Of course they’re six games back, so…

      1. The Cardinals have been lights-out insanely good this year. Every other team in baseball would be no better than way behind them in second place at this point. I’m just hoping they can’t keep it up.

      2. Cards fans have a saying – “Cubs are good in the spring, then the(y) FALL…”

      1. Is there a version of Junk status that has a positive outlook?

        1. Sure. It’s not like nothing has ever moved from junk to non-junk status.

          1. joke [ j?k ] NOUN

            a thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a funny punchline.

            1. I should probably know that you know better than that. But it’s a question I could imagine a lot of people seriously asking.

        2. “Junk” is a range of speculative ratings from “there’s a small risk this entity will default” to actual default/bankruptcy.

          Chicago debt just fell from one of the investment ratings – Baa3 or higher – to Ba1 or lower. A “negative outlook” essentially means there’s a good chance it’ll fall lower unless things change.

          It’s possible to be in junk bond territory and have a “positive outlook”: it’s still a speculative investment but the entity is making good faith efforts to avoid default.

          1. Man alive. I gotta work on my delivery.

            My wife’s credit cards were stolen but I didn’t report it. The guy who stole them spent less money than she did.


            1. Ha! That’s pretty good.

          2. But thank you. I was making a snide remark about “good junk bonds” vs “bad junk bonds”, imagining a broker trying to sell them to you, but assuring you that THESE junk bonds are an excellent buy.

    4. Anyone want to wager they do absolutely nothing to change their situation?

      That is aside from maybe suing Moody’s

      1. Anyone want to wager they do absolutely nothing to change their situation?

        You have to define “do absolutely nothing”. For instance, they might do what they’ve been doing all along, but harder.

      2. I’ll wager that they’ll do something stupid that makes the other agencies downgrade their bonds, too.

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  9. We’ve practically regulated ourselves into utopia at this point, we just need to dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s and we’ll be there.

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  11. But the New York Times is party of the party of science and reality based!

    Now excuse me I’m going back to drink my Death Wish Coffee
    (Yes, I have this)…..death+wish

  12. Well, see, these energy drinks often contain fruity flavors that appeal to kids. Proof that Big Caffeine is trying to force their product upon the Childrenzz!

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