Researcher: I Never Said Energy Drinks Were Dangerous (I Left That to My Colleague)

The leader of a research team that
the acute effects of energy drinks on heart function
emphasizes that he never said those effects were dangerous,
although press
of the study viewed the findings with alarm.
Responding to criticism from Monster Beverage, which
the study “alarmist and misleading,” University of Bonn
radiologist Daniel Thomas
Food Navigator:

Although energy drinks have previously been shown to enhance
athletes’ endurance, this is the first study using advancd imaging
technology…to directly demonstrate the impact of an energy drink
on myocardial contraction. Whether this increase in contractility
is generally beneficial or not cannot be deducted from our study or
from the current literature but warrants further investigation.
Specifically, the dose dependency of this effect and long-term
effects have yet to be investigated.

It’s true that the study, which has not been published yet but
was summarized at a recent meeting of the Radiological Society of
North America, does not demonstrate any harmful effects from
consuming energy drinks. But in a
press release
issued by the society, Thomas’ collaborator,
Jonas Dorner, suggested otherwise, saying, “There are concerns
about the products’ potential adverse side effects on heart
function, especially in adolescents and young adults, but there is
little or no regulation of energy drink sales.” The press release
reinforced this negative impression by citing an increase in
“emergency department visits related to energy drink consumption.”
Dorner made sure the study would be portrayed as yet more evidence
that energy drinks are a public health menace by adding, “The
amount of caffeine [in energy drinks] is up to three times higher
than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola. There are
many side effects known to be associated with a high intake of
caffeine, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood
pressure and, in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden

As I
pointed out
on Monday, Dorner’s statement that energy drinks
contain more caffeine than coffee is flat-out wrong: In fact,
coffee contains a lot more caffeine per milliliter than energy
drinks do—more than twice as much, based on a comparison of
Starbucks coffee and the energy drink used in Thomas and Dorner’s
study. That point is crucial because the health concerns raised by
Dorner are health concerns about caffeine, meaning the
emphasis on energy drinks cannot be rationally justified. The
relative doses suggest exactly the opposite of what Dorner implied:
If caffeine is the problem, energy drinks are demonstrably safer
than coffee.

from Hit & Run

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