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FYI: How much caffeine would it take to kill you?

A lawsuit over the death of a 14-year-old girl raises new questions about how much caffeine is too much--and what other nefarious factors might come into play

Monster energy drinks

A wrongful-death lawsuit filed last week against the makers of Monster energy drinks claims that 14-year-old Anais Fournier drank two 24-ounce cans of Monster in the day before she unexpectedly died late in 2011 The coroner's report described "caffeine toxicity" as contributing to her death Just what does it take to ingest a lethal dose of caffeine?

So if a true caffeine overdose is so rare, why has caffeine--perhaps the most widely used drug in North America--been blamed for contributing to a handful of deaths over the years? Perhaps because it almost always works in concert with other far more nefarious factors such as alcohol or heart conditions Indeed, the suit filed in California points out that Fournier suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome According to the autopsy report, the cause of death was a cardiac arrhythmia that the caffeine brought on But the arrhythmia was also complicated by "mitral valve regurgitation in the setting of Ehrlers-Danlos syndrome," which affects collagen synthesis and thus multiple body systems, including the cardiovascular system

"Caffeine toxicity of the kind experienced by Ms Fournier (if, indeed, that is what she experienced) is not well understood," James says "There is speculation in the literature regarding the possibility of some individuals having a peculiar sensitivity to caffeine, but there is no clear definition or understanding of what such sensitivity might be"

Caffeine almost always works in concert with other far more nefarious factors

That's not to say there aren't close calls, especially in children A girl in Ohio suffered seizures, heart problems and fluid in her lungs after she ate her mom's diet pills, containing 2 to 3 grams of caffeine (the equivalent of eight or 12 cans of Monster) She was transported by helicopter to the pediatric hospital in Columbus and survived, despite the high dose and her age: just a year old In another instance, a 16-year-old boy in Toronto ingested something like 6 or 8 grams of caffeine (25 to 33 Monsters) via 30 or 35 pills called "pink hearts" He suffered chest pain, elevated blood sugar and irregular heartbeat, but was treated and survived The physicians who published on the case noted: "On examination, he was alert, oriented, nervous, agitated and irritable"--exactly how you'd imagine a teenager on way too much caffeine

Caffeinated energy drinks are designed for, and marketed to, children, with the aim of recruiting long-term consumers

All of which raises the question, for James, of why drink manufacturers even include caffeine in energy drinks, which he describes as having stimulant benefits that range from marginal to nonexistent "Manufacturers know that repeated consumption of caffeine leads to physical dependence," James wrote "… The more recent bevy of caffeine energy drinks and sodas are specifically designed for, and marketed to, children, with the aim of recruiting long-term consumers of those products"

Including caffeine in soft drinks and energy drinks piggybacks on the dependence that coffee, tea, cola and chocolate have created with their natural caffeine content The effect most people conflate with caffeine stimulation, James wrote, is primarily "withdrawal reversal," which lends the sensation of a small high when, in reality, "the person is merely restored to how they would have been feeling had they not been a caffeine consumer in the first place"

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Copyright © 2018 Popular Science A Bonnier Corporation Company All rights reserved Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited

FYI: How much caffeine would it take to kill you?

FYI: How much caffeine would it take to kill you?

A lawsuit over the death of a 14-year-old girl raises new questions about how much caffeine is too much--and what other nefarious factors might come into play

Monster energy drinks

A wrongful-death lawsuit filed last week against the makers of Monster energy drinks claims that 14-year-old Anais Fournier drank two 24-ounce cans of Monster in the day before she unexpectedly died late in 2011Muscles and connective tissue are naturally equipped to repair themselves by producing new muscles and collagen proteins. The coroner's report described "caffeine toxicity" as contributing to her death Just what does it take to ingest a lethal dose of caffeine?

So if a true caffeine overdose is so rare, why has caffeine--perhaps the most widely used drug in North America--been blamed for contributing to a handful of deaths over the years? Perhaps because it almost always works in concert with other far more nefarious factors such as alcohol or heart conditions Indeed, the suit filed in California points out that Fournier suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome According to the autopsy report, the cause of death was a cardiac arrhythmia that the caffeine brought on But the arrhythmia was also complicated by "mitral valve regurgitation in the setting of Ehrlers-Danlos syndrome," which affects collagen synthesis and thus multiple body systems, including the cardiovascular system

"Caffeine toxicity of the kind experienced by Ms Fournier (if, indeed, that is what she experienced) is not well understood," James says "There is speculation in the literature regarding the possibility of some individuals having a peculiar sensitivity to caffeine, but there is no clear definition or understanding of what such sensitivity might be"

Caffeine almost always works in concert with other far more nefarious factors

That's not to say there aren't close calls, especially in children A girl in Ohio suffered seizures, heart problems and fluid in her lungs after she ate her mom's diet pills, containing 2 to 3 grams of caffeine (the equivalent of eight or 12 cans of Monster) She was transported by helicopter to the pediatric hospital in Columbus and survived, despite the high dose and her age: just a year old In another instance, a 16-year-old boy in Toronto ingested something like 6 or 8 grams of caffeine (25 to 33 Monsters) via 30 or 35 pills called "pink hearts" He suffered chest pain, elevated blood sugar and irregular heartbeat, but was treated and survived The physicians who published on the case noted: "On examination, he was alert, oriented, nervous, agitated and irritable"--exactly how you'd imagine a teenager on way too much caffeine

Caffeinated energy drinks are designed for, and marketed to, children, with the aim of recruiting long-term consumers

All of which raises the question, for James, of why drink manufacturers even include caffeine in energy drinks, which he describes as having stimulant benefits that range from marginal to nonexistent "Manufacturers know that repeated consumption of caffeine leads to physical dependence," James wrote "… The more recent bevy of caffeine energy drinks and sodas are specifically designed for, and marketed to, children, with the aim of recruiting long-term consumers of those products"

Including caffeine in soft drinks and energy drinks piggybacks on the dependence that coffee, tea, cola and chocolate have created with their natural caffeine content The effect most people conflate with caffeine stimulation, James wrote, is primarily "withdrawal reversal," which lends the sensation of a small high when, in reality, "the person is merely restored to how they would have been feeling had they not been a caffeine consumer in the first place"

Latest News

Many products featured on this site were editorially chosen Popular Science may receive financial compensation for products purchased through this site

Copyright © 2018 Popular Science A Bonnier Corporation Company All rights reserved Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited