Investigation: Energy Drinks- The Sun Newspaper - ****March 2011****

This investigation by The Sun newspaper revealed possible health concerns over energy drinks which contain high levels of caffeine.

We were contacted by a parent who was concerned about the effects such drinks could have on children.

The Sun conducted an experiment which showed that consuming high levels of these drinks could be dangerous.

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QUAFFED by celebs, often packaged like beer and placed beside soft drinks, "energy drinks" are soaring in popularity among children.

However, a study by the University of Miami claims such caffeine-heavy drinks may be extremely dangerous for kids - with seizures, strokes and even sudden death among the alleged risks.

Manufacturers refute the study's findings. And the firms behind such well-known brands Red Bull and Rockstar - proudly claimed to be the "world's most powerful energy drink" - say they shouldn't be consumed to excess and are not suitable for children.

We set out to test what knocking back a few cans of energy drink does to the health of an adult. Under medical supervision from Sun doctor Carol Cooper, our writer LEE PRICE, 22, was asked to gulp down up to eight cans of Rockstar - one every ten minutes.

Each contains a whopping 160mg of caffeine per 500ml can, compared to 75mg in a cup of coffee.

After each can Dr Cooper monitored Lee's pulse and blood pressure.

She then checked his co-ordination with the "Finger-Nose Test", getting Lee to move his finger from his nose to her outstretched finger and back while moving her hand to make it more difficult.

Below is the test and how Lee got on.

PRIOR to the experiment Lee's pulse and blood pressure were normal and his co-ordination excellent.

His heart rate was 84bpm - healthy for a man of Lee's age is anywhere between 60 and 90bpm depending on level of fitness.

Lee Price guzzles as much energy drink as he can muster, testing the side-effectsLee's blood pressure was 138/79. The blood pressure reading breaks down into two figures: The first (systolic) is the maximum blood pressure when a heart contracts.

The second (diastolic) is the resting rate when it isn't pumping. An adult's blood pressure should be under 140/80, 120/80 is ideal.

Here Lee explains how he feels after each can of energy drink.

CAN ONE: Don't feel drastically different but there is a sharp increase in both my pulse and blood pressure. Given that I remained sitting in a comfortable chair relaxing, I didn't anticipate my heart racing. The co-ordination test is still easy though.

Pulse: 94bpm Blood pressure: 148/82

Health effects ... Lee's blood pressure and pulse steadily increase
Health effects ... Lee's blood pressure and pulse steadily increase
Paul Edwards

CAN TWO: I'm already struggling. I feel bloated and wouldn't choose to drink any more in normal circumstances. My pulse continues to increase, as does my blood pressure.

Pulse: 97bpm Blood pressure: 149/105

CAN THREE: Feeling dizzy and sick - labouring to get through the can within the ten minutes allotted. My pulse is about the same but my blood pressure rises dangerously. I struggle through the co-ordination test I aced just half an hour earlier. Conversation is hard and I'm finding the photographer's camera light really irritating.

Pulse: 96bpm Blood pressure: 155/85

Wipe out ... overdose leaves Lee feeling lethargic and windy, before he is eventually sick
Wipe out ... overdose leaves Lee feeling lethargic and windy, before he is eventually sick
Paul Edwards

CAN FOUR: After two litres of Rockstar I'm in bad shape. I'm going to the loo a lot now but struggle to walk in a straight line. I'm windy and my head is banging. Far from energised, I feel rundown and lethargic.

Pulse: 98bpm Blood pressure: 153/101

CAN FIVE: My readings are at worrying levels and when I fail the co-ordination test entirely, Dr Cooper ends the experiment.

Pulse: 106bpm Blood pressure: 160/104

Lucky I had that bucket with me - I vomit when I get home and stay in the bathroom all evening. In bed my heart is palpitating and racing. I can't stomach breakfast the next morning and feel queasy all day. I'll never drink another "energy" drink - it's wiped me out.

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