Red Bull Addiction, Demi Moore, & the Adverse Side Effects of Energy Drinks

Demi Moore’s collapse surfaces Red Bull health risks: Actress and cougar icon Demi Moore’s recent collapse from what appears to be a Red Bull overdose brings to fore a number of studies that say drinking caffeine-based energy beverages is bad for your health.

Last February (2011), in fact, a team of researchers urged United States health authorities to regulate Red Bull and other energy drinks that contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants.

The researchers made their call after their study showed that drinking these beverages put children and young adults at risk for serious heart, kidney and liver and other health problems. The research team had looked at Red Bull, Spike Shooter, Redline and other energy drink brands that are popular with university students and adventure sports enthusiasts.

Earlier, in 2008, another study from Australia found that drinking even just one can of Red Bull increased the risk for stroke and heart attack—even in young and healthy people.

Saying they were particularly concerned over study findings that showed adverse health effects on young adults and children, the U.S. researchers called for energy drinks to be regulated.

Right now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require makers of energy drinks to prove their beverages are safe or effective, because the drinks are classified as nutritional supplements.

But Red Bull is actually banned in Norway, Uruguay and Denmark because of health risks listed on its cans.

Still, Red Bull is sold in 143 countries and U.S. sales alone are expected to reach US$9 billion this year (2012)—with half of products marketed, sold and consumed by teens and young adults.

It’s popular with university students and adrenaline sport fans, being marketed by its Austrian maker as “giving you wings.”

Overall, the market of energy drinks is fast-growing dominated by brands like Red Bull, Rockstar and Hansen Natural’s HANS.O Monster. Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc and other soft drink companies also have their own energy drinks.

Kidney, heart, liver damage
The U.S. researchers, led by University of Miami’s Dr. Steven Lipshultz, reviewed numerous scientific studies on the health effects of energy drinks and found many cases of seizures, delusions, heart problems, and kidney or liver damage.

Writing in the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Lipshultz says, “Across the world, there are signs that for some people who consume these drinks, there are side effects.”

“The incidence is low,” Dr. Lipshultz told Reuters Health, “but in certain groups that pediatricians care for, there may be higher risks.”

The U.S. researchers has scoured medical literature and the Internet for studies on “beverages that contain caffeine, taurine, vitamins, herbal supplements and sugar or sweeteners and are marketed to improve energy, weight loss, stamina, athletic performance and concentration.”

Reviewing these studies, Dr. Lipshultz team found that energy drinks were linked to “serious adverse effects, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults (including) seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavioral disorders in those who take certain medications.”

Raised heart attack, stroke risk
Meanwhile, the study conducted in Australia in 2008 showed that just one can of Red Bull could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, even in young people.

The researchers says the caffeine-loaded beverage caused the blood to become sticky, a pre-cursor to cardiovascular problems such as stroke.

“One hour after they drank Red Bull, (their blood systems) were no longer normal. They were abnormal like we would expect in a patient with cardiovascular disease,” says Scott Willoughby, lead researcher from the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s Cardiovascular Research Centre.

Willoughby and his team tested the cardiovascular systems of 30 young adults one hour before and one hour after consuming one 250ml can of sugar-free Red Bull.