Energy Drinks Under Scrutiny

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COLUMBIA - Walking into a gas station or grocery store, a consumer faces many decisions when looking for that extra boost: coffee, soda, tea and energy drinks. According to a consumer preference survey, about 35 percent of Americans 18 to 25 years old opts for energy drinks.

"[Energy drinks] are a big part of my son's life. It's something that he does every day," Ronald Hutchings said. His son, D.J., is in his early 20s and has been drinking them at least since college.

And when their intake of these products is typically the same as coffee or soft drinks, health officials say they pose a problem.

That's why New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decided to take action. He issued subpoenas to AMP, Monster and 5-hour Energy manufacturers, seeking information on their marketing and advertising practices. Schneiderman said he wants to specifically investigate the companies' claims on how much caffeine the drinks really contain and the health risks they impose.

The main health risks tied to energy drinks are liver damage, seizures, racing heart rate, respiratory disorders and sometimes death, typically seen when the consumer is younger than 18 years old.

According to Time Magazine, energy drinks become most deadly when mixed with substances, such as alcohol or medications to treat ADHD. In 2010, U.S. poison control centers began documenting adverse events specifically related to energy drinks.

An MSNBC article reveals a regular caffeine diet (about less than 250 mg per day) can actually make the drinker more lethargic. And to put that in perspective, most energy drinks contain about 75 to 145 mg in an 8 oz. serving size. But most energy drink cans are double that size to16 oz. and some even triple to 24 oz.

But Hutchings believes the drinks are not harming D.J. "My son is really conscious about stuff like that. I mean he's always reading the labels and everything so he's pretty much up to date on everything. If it looks like it's not gonna be good for him, he's probably not gonna do it. So you know I'm confident in what he does and the things that he drinks that they're good for you or, you know, that he wouldn't do it."

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