5 On Your Side

Study: Energy drinks have more caffeine than coffee

Posted October 3, 2008

Popular energy drinks can be found on store shelves everywhere – along with new warnings that they have potentially harmful levels of caffeine.

Sales of energy drinks have boomed to over $5 billion annually as many young Americans pass over a morning cup of coffee for energy drinks, such as Rock Star and Red Bull. "Gives you a little energy boost if you're tired," student Roman Galper said.

However, researchers at John Hopkins University say that some energy drinks have the same caffeine as 14 cans of Coke.

The average 12-ounce cola has 35 milligrams of caffeine, and a 6-ounce coffee contains 80 to 150 milligrams. Energy drinks, which vary in size, can have between 50 and 500 milligrams.

"At the higher level, caffeine is a drug," said Dr. Steven Lamm, an internist at New York University. "It's a stimulant. It's an alerting agent. But it can also induce sweating and hypertension and rapid heart rate."

In rare cases, energy drinks have caused death.

Researchers warn that people who consume caffeine-fueled energy drinks might be more prone to the illicit use of drugs, such as Ritalin, later on.

Because they are marketed as supplements, energy drinks do not have to carry labels revealing how much caffeine is in each can. Experts are calling for better labeling and warnings about the potential risks.

The American Beverage Association, which represents most energy-drink makers, says such labeling is unnecessary.

"Energy drinks have about half the amount of caffeine of a cup of coffee from a coffee house," Susan Neely, with the association, said.

Doctors agree that energy drinks can be safe – in moderation.

Many consumers said new labels and warnings would not make any difference.

"Does it stop smokers from smoking cigarettes when it says it can kill you?" student Damiyr Davis said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • readme Oct 7, 2008

    We don't need government warning labels or special treatment. As long as the beverage has the caffeine levels posted on the label, then it is the cunsumer's responsibility to make good decisions. I don't necessarily agree with earlier posters that you don't need caffeine if you have a balanced diet. No balanced diet will keep you up all night cramming for a test. Sure, it's not ideal to have to do it, but sometimes you do.

  • ramsey1165 Oct 7, 2008

    I tried an energy drink about three weeks ago. I will never, ever drink one again! I thought my heart was going to pump out of my chest! I can't even drink coffee, it makes me shaky! The energy drink made the room spin! I guess you can say I was high!

  • GWALLY Oct 6, 2008


  • Schpartacus Oct 3, 2008

    A) Once again, isn't the higher caffeine content of energy drinks something everyone already knew?
    B) Caffeine is a drug at ANY level; the effects just vary with the dosage.
    C) My roomate once drank 5 Red Bulls in one night finishing an Econ paper and had crippling chest pain the next day.
    D) I agree with purplerado that energy drinks don't address the root problem although I'm leery of "Nutritional Cleansing" and anything involving vague "toxins" - that sounds like pseudoscience. However, I'm a firm believer that healthy nutrition and a balanced diet will give a person the energy they need to handle the day.

  • purplerado Oct 3, 2008

    The energy drink fad is another sign of what is going wrong with the health of our citizens. People are overloaded with toxins from the environment and not getting proper nourishment, so of course they feel tired and have trouble focusing. Energy drinks do nothing to address these problems and are only a "quick fix". There is an answer to this problem- it's called Nutritional Cleansing. Get rid of the toxins, replenish the nutrients, and it's all good.