Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day is safe for most healthy adults. However, the “safe” amount of caffeine is often lower for teenagers. Young people are smaller and more likely to have an undiagnosed heart condition than most adults. They are also more likely to consume a lot of energy drinks in quick succession.
The problem is that energy drinks are aggressively marketed toward young people, but they rarely carry warnings or list the amount of caffeine on the label. As a result, teenagers may be unaware of the risk of heart problems.
On April 26, Davis A. Cripe, a healthy 16 year-old high school student, died of heart problems after drinking a large diet Mountain Dew, a medium McDonald’s cafe latte coffee, and an energy drink in 2 hours.
Cripe collapsed at Spring Hill High School near Chapin, South Carolina, and died at the hospital. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said there was no indication that Cripe had an undiagnosed heart condition, and wrote:
The final cause of death was determined to be due to a caffeine-induced cardiac event causing probably arrhythmia.”
Arrhythmia is a dangerous condition that occurs when the heart beats too fast or too slow and fails to effectively pump blood into the body.
An autopsy revealed that Cripe ingested over the 400-mg daily limit of caffeine for a healthy adult. The energy drink was not identified, but most energy drinks contain at least 150-mg of caffeine per can.
There is about 142-mg of caffeine in a medium McCafe Latte coffee. One 16-ounce plastic bottle of diet Mountain Dew contains 72-mg of caffeine. One 2-ounce shot of 5-Hour Energy has 200-mg of caffeine.
Highly-caffeinated energy drinks are associated with heart problems, fast and irregular heartbeat, fainting, seizures, elevated blood pressure, heart attacks, sudden cardiac arrest, and even death.
Caffeine isn’t the only problem. Other ingredients like B-vitamins (niacin) are hard on the liver when consumed excessively. There have been several reports of people who developed acute hepatitis (liver inflammation) as a result of energy drinks. A growing number of lawsuits accuse manufacturers of failing to warn about side effects.