PORTLAND -- A recent study showed annual energy drink-related trips to the emergency room have doubled in just four years from 10,000 to 20,000.
The FDA has been asked to look into 15 deaths possibly connected to the drinks. Experts said the energy drinks can be OK, but there are things to know before you reach for another one.
The drinks can affect blood pressure, and in some cases, interfere with the heart's relaxation phase, said Providence Health System cardiologist Dr. Tony Garvey.
“All of a sudden, you have this rapid episode of ventricular fibrillation's,” he said. “When the heart hits this rhythm, it’s just quivering; it’s not pumping any blood.”
It won’t happen to everyone who downs an energy drink, but people with arrhythmia or blood pressure problems are at risk.
Nutritionist Ruth Carey said along with the caffeine, the drinks carry herbs which are also stimulants. They can be especially damaging for athletes.
“When I was working with professional athletes and toward the end of the season they were tired, they needed a little boost. They downed one of these energy drinks in a large quantity and ended up in the ER instead of the game,” she said.
Most energy drink makers don’t disclose the information because they’re not regulated by the FDA like sodas and food. They’re considered dietary supplements.
Attorney Leanne Easton said she supports tighter FDA regulation after losing a nephew who combined alcohol and energy drinks.
“The amount of caffeine in them then tricks your body into thinking you can consume more alcohol," Easton said.
Easton carries with her a letter from more than a dozen doctors sent to the FDA, urging regulation of energy drinks.
Some energy drink makers are already making changes. Monster, the nation’s biggest seller, has announced it will be regulated by the FDA as a beverage instead of a supplement. It will also start listing the amount of caffeine on the can. It follows a similar move by Rockstar.
KGW reporter Cathy Marshall contributed to this report.