How did David Zdunich die of consumption

Caffeine Death: How Dangerous Are Energy Drinks?

Berlin. One afternoon in late April, 16-year-old student Davis Cripe collapsed in his classroom in South Carolina. An hour later he is dead. On Tuesday the result of the autopsy became known: Sudden cardiac arrest. At 16. According to doctors, too much caffeine initially led to cardiac arrhythmias. The 16-year-old had three caffeinated drinks within two hours - a McDonald’s café latte, a bottle of caffeinated lemonade and an energy drink. It was too much for his body.

The boy didn't die of a caffeine overdose, but he drank the drinks in too short a time, coroner Gary Watts said. The boy was healthy and did not consume alcohol or drugs. Heart failure was not diagnosed.

"David, like many other people, thought that it was totally harmless to consume a lot of caffeine," said Watts. And: "David died of an absolutely legal substance." The current case has rekindled the debate about sweet caffeine mixtures, and not just in the United States. It is now being discussed again in Germany as well. Doctors and associations have been warning against the consumption of the stimulants for years.

Drinks made from water, sugar and lots of caffeine

Energy drinks - English energy drinks or energy shots - are drinks that mainly consist of water, sugar, supposedly performance-enhancing additives such as taurine, inositol and glucuronolactone and contain high concentrations of caffeine. In contrast to the USA, where drinks are considered food supplements and are therefore not subject to any restrictions, in Germany there is a legal maximum amount of 320 milligrams of caffeine per liter for energy drinks - this corresponds to around four cups of filter coffee and is almost three times as much as a liter of cola is included.

Caffeine speeds up the heartbeat and metabolism, and body temperature rises. Coffee brings energy - provided you drink it in the right dose. Otherwise there is a risk of nervousness and excitability, insomnia, sweating and racing heart as undesirable side effects. However, to date there are no reliable studies of how much of the caffeine kicks a person, whether old or young, can tolerate.

Damage to the kidneys and the central nervous system

The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) issued recommendations two years ago: According to this, a harmless single dose for adults is a maximum of 200 milligrams of caffeine. Spread over the day, you should not consume more than twice as much - this corresponds to around four to five cups of coffee or eight cups of black tea.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has evaluated and published these recommendations. "According to Efsa, the single dose of caffeine (3 mg per kg of body weight), which is safe for adults, can also be considered safe for children and adolescents," it says. The Göttingen pediatric cardiologist Martin Hulpke-Wette strongly advises against trusting these values: “We can't say anything about children and adolescents because we don't have any data. That is why I consider breaking down the values ​​to be potentially negligent. "

In his experience, excessive consumption could damage the kidneys and the central nervous system. Caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline, which makes the heart beat faster and increases blood pressure. With very large amounts, the heart begins to race. Especially in people who suffer from genetic defects - but do not know anything about them - the energy drinks could lead to cardiac arrest. “You rarely have the opportunity to revive these people,” says the cardiologist.

The foundation for diabetes may be laid

The Federal Association of Resident Cardiologists (BNK) also warns against the high sugar content of energy drinks. Smaller studies have already shown that the drinks have an unfavorable effect on the sugar metabolism and thus possibly lay the foundation for diabetes, says BNK expert Heribert Brück. No wonder: for example, the 500-milliliter can of Rockstar Energy Drink from Pepsico contains 70 grams of sugar - that's 23 sugar cubes. Women have already exceeded the daily amount of sugar they can tolerate - children by far.

Despite the health risks, the energy drinks run like crazy. For years they have been among the group of beverages with the highest growth rates. In every well-stocked beverage market you can choose between a dozen products. Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, Sexergy or Strong Force should taste like danger and adventure, wake you up and increase performance. Athletes rely on the colorful variety of so-called training boosters, which also work on a caffeine basis. There are now even "Energy Sweets" - a kind of caffeinated gummy bear for children.

Two thirds of all young people drink the drinks regularly

For millions of people, energy drinks are part of their daily routine. According to a study by the European Food Safety Authority, two thirds of all young people between the ages of 11 and 17 are habitual energy drinkers. A quarter of it usually empties the contents of three or more cans one after the other, when playing continuously on the computer, in clubs mixed with alcohol or at sporting events.

In the USA there are repeated reports of deaths after ingesting high amounts of caffeine, especially through energy drinks, and cases are increasing in Europe too. In 2013, a 23-year-old from North Rhine-Westphalia suffered cardiac arrest during a soccer game. He had previously consumed several energy drinks - two cans of Monster the night, three before the game. The 23-year-old survived but his heart was damaged and he has had a pacemaker ever since.

Resistance to bans from the economy

Doctors, consumer associations and the World Health Organization are calling for a ban on sales to minors and clearer warnings on the cans. Foodwatch wants highly concentrated energy shots to be banned completely. The Non-Alcoholic Drinks Association considers the demands to be "absolutely disproportionate".

Politicians do not see their duty either. On request, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture refers to an awareness campaign and statutory maximum quantities. These are measured by the Federal Office for Risk Assessment in such a way "that they take precautionary consumer health protection into account".