Students continue purchasing energy drinks despite FDA investigation - Purdue Exponent: Features

Students continue purchasing energy drinks despite FDA investigation

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Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 10:00 am | Updated: 3:12 pm, Tue Dec 4, 2012.

A student who helped develop Pure Kyk Energy said he doesn’t think the FDA’s investigation of energy drinks will affect the fact that finals week is one of the industry’s busiest times of the year.

Since mid-November, the Federal Drug Administration has been investigating complaints, including 18 deaths and more than 150 injuries, related to the consumption of energy drinks and shots. These “adverse event reports,” which specifically name 5-Hour Energy, Monster and Rockstar, warn of a potential connection but do not prove blame.

Much of the attention has focused on whether the drinks’ high caffeine contents are safe, particularly for vulnerable populations such as teenagers and those with pre-existing heart conditions.

Whether the drinks should be marketed to teens in light of these injury complaints is also a question. Though it does not say on the 5-Hour Energy bottle, the independent group ConsumerLab.com found the energy shot contains 207 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, one can of Coke has 34 milligrams.

According to sophomore Andrew Linfoot, one of two student developers of Pure Kyk Energy powder, marketing is exactly why the products are being unfairly targeted.

“A Starbucks (drink can have) 400 to 500 milligrams of caffeine and people will drink Starbucks all day,” Linfoot said. “But if you put it in a ‘scary’ can, they tend to think differently because they attribute their symptoms to the product they consumed earlier.”

For some, though, such as senior Natalie Chermel, who is graduating with a dietetics degree in December, the product’s marketing is not telling the whole story, either.

“(They say), ‘Yeah, here’s a quick and easy way to stay awake,’ but it’s not really the whole truth,” Chermel said. “There’s health consequences, too.”

Chermel said she doesn’t think most people realize the amount of caffeine and sugar that’s packed into the drinks, which often contain more than one serving. When she ran a booth representing the nutrition department at a youth event in 2012, she demonstrated the sugar content of different drinks.

Around half of the people who stopped by made remarks such as, “Wow, that’s amazing,” and “I had never thought of that.”

Chermel said using energy drinks isn’t worth it to her, but she has noticed others who do, particularly among males. According to Deb Jones, supervisor of the Stewart Center Newsstand, energy drink purchases increase by about 50 percent around finals. At the same time, she noted, general traffic in the building increases as well.

Though Linfoot doesn’t expect the FDA investigations to lead to anything significant, he admits energy drinks aren’t for everyone. Caffeine increases physical performance, making it perfect for an all-nighter, he said, but it can also increase anxiety.

“If you have test anxiety it could hurt to increase caffeine (intake),” Linfoot said. “Ideally everyone would learn the material over the semester, but it’s college and that doesn’t happen. Everyone waits until the last week and crams.”

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