Energy drinks making our kids sick

University of Wollongong academic Sandra Jones has called for all energy drinks - particularly those mixed with alcohol - to be banned.

Professor Jones said alcoholic energy drinks had been banned in Canada, some US states and parts of Europe, due to their suspected link with several deaths internationally - including at least one in Australia.

Through her own research at UOW's Centre for Health Initiatives, Prof Jones and her team have found 12- to 17-year-olds had reported feeling sick, having heart palpitations and even seizures after drinking alcoholic energy drinks.

"Kids reported increased heart rates, shaking and headaches - some even reported having convulsions and having to be taken to hospital in an ambulance after drinking five or six cans in a row," she said.

"These cans have the same, or more, caffeine than in a strong cup of coffee so it's like they're drinking five or six coffees in a row - with a shot of vodka in each.

"Plus alcohol is a depressant and caffeine is a stimulant so young people feel awake, alert and full of energy - rather than starting to get tired and sleepy like they would with other forms of alcohol.

"That leads them to keep drinking even more, and then they're more likely to get aggressive and engage in risk-taking behaviours."

Prof Jones quoted a US study that showed those who had drunk alcoholic energy drinks were four times more likely to drive their car home, than those who had the same blood alcohol but had consumed alcoholic drinks without the extra "energy".

While in small doses these may be OK, it is the way energy drinks are consumed that may make them dangerous.

"There's a number of instances where people are becoming very ill or dying from energy drinks, or alcoholic energy drinks, because of their sensitivity to caffeine," Prof Jones said.

"You would normally discover you had a sensitivity to caffeine over time - drinking can after can of energy drink with caffeine is not a good way to discover your sensitivity."

Jim Shepherd of Toronto, Canada, has become an outspoken opponent of energy drinks after his 15-year-old son, Brian, died of a heart arrhythmia in 2008 after drinking a Red Bull free sample at a paintball tournament.

Meanwhile it was reported in October that Monster Beverage was being sued in California by the family of Anais Fournier, a teenager who died of an arrhythmia in December 2011, allegedly after drinking two cans of Monster Energy over a 24-hour period.

That month the US Food and Drug Administration announced it was investigating five deaths and a non-fatal heart attack for possible links to consumption of Monster Energy drinks.

Then in November the FDA confirmed it was investigating 13 deaths that may be linked to consumption of energy drink 5-hour Energy - only available online in Australia.

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