Student warning on energy drinks after teen's death
A leading health expert has urged Irish students to be aware of the dangers that energy drinks pose, following the death of a US teen after ingesting too much caffeine.
Dr Marian O'Reilly, chief nutrition specialist at Safefood.eu, says caffeinated energy drinks can be a real danger to teens and young adults seeking a high-performance sugar kick.
"Some energy drinks contain up to 17 and a half teaspoons of sugar and have the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee.
"The marketing on these drinks is particularly appealing to kids and have very small warning labels, which are largely ignored.
"Many parents look upon the likes of Red Bull and Monster in the same way as any other fizzy drink, but don't take into consideration the huge amount of sugar and caffeine in them."
This week an inquest heard that a 16-year-old boy in South Carolina died after drinking several highly caffeinated drinks. Tragic Davis Allen Cripe collapsed while in school after drinking a McDonald's latte, a large Mountain Dew soft drink and an energy drink in just under two hours.
The coroner ruled that the teen died from a "caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia". He had no pre-existing heart condition.
Ms O'Reilly added that during exams students are especially vulnerable to highly caffeinated drinks.
"During exam times, many kids are not getting enough sleep or even eating right.
"Their energy levels tend to be way down and many are looking at energy drinks as a quick-fix solution.
"An extra few hours of sleep, exercising regularly and eating well has much more high-performance benefits than any energy drink out there," she said.
Obesity expert Donal O'Shea told the Irish Independent that high amounts of caffeine in young people can potentially be deadly.
"If an adult had three double espressos, they would be certainly be feeling very high levels of anxiety, along with an increase in their heartbeat.
"Now think of what the same level of caffeine would have in a child's body?
"Drinking high levels of caffeine, especially for children with undetected cardiac rhythm problems, is very dangerous
"If their heart is stimulated in a wrong way, they could slip into an abnormal heartbeat, which could be catastrophic."