November 19, 2012 — The FDA has posted 21 adverse event reports associated with Red Bull energy drinks online.
The reports, which were submitted voluntarily between January 2004 and May 2012, describe a wide range of physical and psychological side effects of Red Bull. Several of the reports were cited as “life-threatening,” often due to heart problems.
Of the 21 reports, 10 reports involved hospitalization, life-threatening injuries, a visit to the emergency room (ER), or other serious injuries. Some of the most serious cardiovascular side effects included:
- Increased or abnormal heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
- Intracardiac thrombus (blood clot in the heart)
- And more
Other notable side effects were psychological in nature, involving anxiety, aggression, panic attacks, confusion, disturbance in attention, and mental impairment. Some side effects affected specific organs (pancreatitis, blindness, etc.). Other side effects involved severe vomiting, convulsions, and fatigue.
According to the FDA, the existence of an injury report does not prove cause-and-effect. Reports do not necessarily include all relevant data (such as whether the energy drink was combined with alcohol, drugs, underlying heart problems, or other medical conditions). The number of reports may also vastly under-estimate the actual number of incidents.
In a statement, Red Bull company officials said that they are not aware of any injury filings to the FDA, and their beverages are safe.
In the last few weeks, the FDA has confirmed that they have received more than 150 adverse event reports associated with Red Bull, Monster Energy, Rockstar, and 5-Hour Energy, including 18 fatalities. A federal report from 2009 identified more than 13,000 emergency room visits that cited energy drinks as a possible cause of injury.
In the last decade, the popularity of energy drinks has skyrocketed to become a nearly $9 billion per year industry. The products often contain hundreds of milligrams of caffeine and other ingredients, such as amino acids, B-vitamins, or taurine. The products are regulated as dietary supplements, which means that they do not need to obey the same standards for labeling, safety, or effectiveness as drugs and foods.
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