The Irish government has ordered urgent research to be carried out on the effects of energy drinks. The move comes after the death of a teenager who died while playing basketball and after consuming three cans of the stimulant drink Red Bull.
While there was nothing in the coroner’s report to suggest that the drink was a direct cause of death, the Irish population has one of the highest rates of consumption of such drinks. Anecdotal evidence from clubs, where young drinkers commonly mix stimulant drinks with vodka, suggests a rise in violent behaviour among consumers of the mixture.
In this context, the teenager’s death has become a catalyst for asking questions about stimulant abuse, safe consumption of such drinks and how much is too much.
Most stimulant drinks contain the same principal constituents: caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone. There is approximately 75 mg of caffeine in 200 mL of stimulant drink compared with 21 mg in the average cola and 80 mg in the average cup of filtered coffee. The safe upper limit of either taurine or glucuronolactone has not been determined due to a lack of research (Lancet, 2000; 356: 1911).