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News > Energy drinks: Who’s using them and why?
Energy drinks: Who’s using them and why?

Posted 12/7/2012   Updated 12/7/2012 Email story   Print story


by Col. Eric A. Shalita
Pharmacy Flight Commander

12/7/2012 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio -- There is an ongoing study on the prevalence of energy drink consumption among all Air Force personnel, including civilians, stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The survey was initiated by investigators at Travis AFB, Calif., in September to understand how many Air Force personnel take energy drinks, the side effects that are experienced and the reasons people choose to consume them.

After gaining approval from the Air Force Survey Offi ce, 11 other sites have been invited to join the research efforts, with Wright-Patterson being one of the selected bases. The survey will run for four weeks at each site, with the study collection period concluding at the end of the year.

Energy drinks are widely used in the military, although little is known about the physical effects on the body. The Air Force Times published an article in June 2012 regarding a two-year research project currently underway at David Grant USAF Medical Center, Travis AFB.

This study is specifi cally looking at the effects of energy drinks on the blood pressure and heart rate/ rhythm of users.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the amount of caffeine in sodas and other beverages to no more than 71 mg. per 12-oz. can, there are no such restrictions on energy drinks since they are classifi ed as "nutritional supplements."

This is particularly concerning to medical providers, since some energy drinks contain up to 500 mg. per container. Most people consume them for the positive effects of increased mental alertness, energy and stamina; however, excessive amounts of caffeine can cause insomnia, irritability, anxiety, crabbiness, headaches and an increased heartbeat.

Energy drinks have had much publicity lately. In November of this year, the FDA received claims that a popular energy product may have led to 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations during the past four years.

In October, the family of a 14-year-old girl sued the makers of one particular energy drink for wrongful death. After consuming two 24-oz. containers in 24 hours, the girl became unconscious and later died from a cardiac arrhythmia (i.e., rapid, slow or irregular heart rate) due to caffeine toxicity, which prevented the heart from pumping blood.

Although there have not been any reports of deaths attributed to energy drinks in the military, the limited knowledge about the physical effects of energy drinks and how many Air Force personnel consume them is a potential health risk.

A previous research study in 2008 found consumption rates of energy drinks to be 61 percent of all active-duty members surveyed at one Air Force base.

A more recent study in 2012 at Travis AFB indicated that consumption rates were 87 percent for active-duty members, with 40 percent consuming at least one drink per week.
Consumption among non-active-duty members at Travis was 61 percent, which is significantly lower. These findings raise more questions about why the more recent consumption rates are higher, and why active-duty members consume energy drinks at higher rates than non-active-duty members. Your participation on this survey may help provide answers to these questions.

If you have questions, please call 257-9029.

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