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Did caffeinated energy drinks cause deaths?

An investigation has been launched by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding the safety of Monster Energy Drinks, a highly caffeinated beverage popular with some young people. The agency has received reports of four individuals' deaths and accusing consumption of the drink as the cause of death. One other individual experienced a non-fatal heart attack after consuming the drink. Investigators will seek to determine whether the beverage is a dangerous product.

The parents of a 14-year-old girl who recently died after consuming the beverage filed a wrongful death against the company. The girl drank two 24-ounce containers of the beverage within a day before dying. The coroner, after an autopsy, stated that caffeine toxicity caused her death by triggering a cardiac arrhythmia. In her case, she suffered from a genetic disorder that frequently results in weak and compromised blood vessels.

The company which makes and markets the beverage claims that it didn't cause her death or the other four fatalities claimed to be related to consumption of the high caffeine concoction.

One doctor says that caffeine can have a more dramatic and dangerous impact on children than it has when consumed by adults. He notes that their blood vessels constitute a smaller circulation system to move the caffeine through and that they therefore wind up with a greater concentration of it in their blood.

Many parents are therefore nervous about or outright opposed to their children drinking energy drinks, most of which have high levels of caffeine. The drinks have become very popular with teenagers, however. The companies selling them often directly attempt to market them to young people. So far, the FDA has not regulated them because they are not considered either a food or a drug.

Source: WJBF-TV, "Kid Connection: Teen's Parents Claim She Died From Energy Drink, How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?" Jillian Benfield, Oct. 24, 2012

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