Highly-caffeinated energy drinks -- even those containing no alcohol -- may pose a significant threat to individuals and public health, say researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
In a new online commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they recommend immediate consumer action, education by health providers, voluntary disclosures by manufacturers and new federal labeling requirements.
"Recent action to make pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks unavailable was an important first step, but more continued action is needed," says University of Maryland School of Public Health researcher Amelia Arria, who directs the Center on Young Adult Health and Development. "Individuals can still mix these highly caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol on their own. It is also concerning that no regulation exists with regard to the level of caffeine that can be in an energy drink."
Arria and co-author Mary Claire O'Brien, associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, alerted various state attorneys general to the risks of alcoholic energy drinks starting in 2009, steps that culminated last November in actions against Four Loko and similar products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.
The JAMA paper cites three public health concerns surrounding all packaged energy drinks with moderate to high levels of caffeine:
The commentary recommends several "proactive steps to protect public health:"
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