A critical editorial published by Canada's leading medical journal is the latest move a mounting effort to convince the Canadian government to crack down on the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to minors.
Energy drinks that contain high amounts of caffeine - some more than five times the amount in a can of cola, or nearly double the amount in a cup of brewed coffee - can pose serious health risks to children and adolescents and require stronger warning labels, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal's editorial.
Chris Turner, Health Canada's director-general of the marketed health products directorate, said the department has received several dozen reports of adverse reactions linked to energy drinks, and that 15 of them were cardiac events.
Unlike cola drinks or similar carbonated beverages, energy drinks usually contain much higher levels of caffeine. For instance, a 250-ml (approx. 8 oz.) bottle of Coca-Cola contains 26 milligrams of caffeine, according to the company's web site. But a 75-ml (approx. 2.5 oz.) bottle of Rockstar "energy shot" contains 200 mg of caffeine. A 355-ml (approx. 12 oz.) can of Red Bull contains 113.6 mg of caffeine.
Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to irritability, loss of sleep or nervousness. But there is also concern that its stimulating effects can cause rapid heat rate, an abnormal rhythm or other problems that could have serious health consequences.