Consumer Reports puts energy drinks to test

October 25, 2012 3:39:09 PM PDT
Health concerns about energy drinks were heightened this week with reports of five deaths possibly linked to Monster Energy drinks.

Caffeine is a key ingredient in nearly every energy drink on the market, but it can be hard to tell how much they contain. Consumer Reports has just conducted lab tests on dozens of top-selling drinks.

Energy drinks dominate the shelves in most convenient stores, but what is harder to find is just how much caffeine is actually in them.

Everyone from Tim Tebow from 50 Cent to Joan Rivers are advertising them. With their Facebook pages and Internet video campaigns, manufacturers specifically target young people.

But Consumer Reports says you have to be careful how much caffeine you drink.

"It can quicken your pulse, cause abnormal heart rhythms, keep you from sleeping well and elevate your blood pressure," said Gayle Williams with Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports analyzed the caffeine content of 27 top-selling energy drinks, testing three samples each. Although some list the amount of caffeine on the package, they're not required to.

Consumer Reports found the numbers can be way off.

"Some of the energy drinks underestimated the amount of caffeine listed on the label by 20 percent or more," Williams said.

So how much caffeine do energy drinks contain?

In Consumer Reports' tests, it varied widely.

For example, FRS Healthy Energy averaged 17 milligrams per container. Red Bull and Street Kings Energy around 80; 5-Hour Energy had 215 milligrams and 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength had 242.

Most healthy adults can consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.

"So for many people, an occasional energy drink is probably OK," Williams said.

Or you can drink regular coffee. An eight-ounce cup contains roughly 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Consumer and scientific groups have urged the food and drug administration to require companies to disclose caffeine levels, but the agency says it lacks the authority to do so.

Many energy drinks do carry warnings that they are not for children, women who are pregnant or nursing women, or people sensitive to caffeine.


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