Energy drinks linked to deaths

Minister calls for limits on use of drinks containing taurine and caffeine after two fatal heart attacks possibly linked

10 June 2012
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AFTER two new cases of heart attacks possibly linked to the consumption of “energy drinks”, the health minister has recommended drinking no more than half a can a day.

Health Minister Marisol Tourraine has said such drinks should be for adults only and should be avoided by pregnant women and sportspeople.

As a general rule they must be used in moderation, she added, suggesting a recommended limit of 125ml/day (half a normal can of a drink such as Red Bull).

Because they can cause “hyperexcitability, irritability and nervousness”, they should also not be drunk together with alcohol or other substances that can have an effect on the brain and nervous system, the minister said.

Energy drinks have been controversial in France since they were first allowed for sale in 2008.

Now the national food safety body Anses has flagged to the government two deaths which doctors have told them could be linked to unsuitable use of such drinks. The Health Ministry has told the body to increase its vigilance.

At the moment the link is not proved, an expert, Prof Irène Margaritis, told Le Figaro. However she said a link between the heart attacks and the drinks was “likely or very likely”.

In the period 2008-2009 24 cases were passed to Anses by doctors, in which a link with energy drinks was found to be “possible or probable” in 13 of them.

Since late 2009 six more cases have been notified to Anses, and are being studied, relating to fatal heart attacks, neurological problems (epileptic fits, disorientation, coma), behavioural disorders and kidney disease. They all concerned people aged under 50, who had typically been drinking the products at parties, along with alcohol.

Energy drinks contain such stimulants as caffeine and taurine as well as plant extracts like guarana and ginseng.

A toxicology expert from the Paris-Centre university hospitals, Prof François Chast, said however that moderate use should not be “demonised” and possible risks associated with key ingredient taurine had not been conclusively proved.

However he added that a can contains as much caffeine as an espresso coffee and it is known that caffeine has greater toxic effects on the heart in people who have been drinking alcohol.

Anses is calling for a renewed effort by doctors to alert them to any cases of problems that may be linked to energy drinks. As for the public, they can help by telling their doctors of any concerns, the body says.

Photo: Beboy www.fotolia.com

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