Sept. 24, 2008 -- Caffeinated energy drinks that promise super alertness --
and sometimes imply better sports performance -- should carry labels that
specify their amount of caffeine, says a Johns Hopkins
Drinks with the highest caffeine content should also warn of potential
health dangers, says Roland Griffiths, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and
neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and
senior author of a new report on the beverages.
"Many of these drinks do not label the caffeine content," he says,
and some energy drinks contain as much caffeine as found in 14 cans of
The industry begs to differ, with spokespeople pointing out that most
"mainstream" energy drinks contain the same amount of caffeine, or even
less, than you'd get in a cup of brewed coffee. If labels listing caffeine
content are required on energy drinks, they should also be required on
coffeehouse coffee, says Maureen Storey, PhD, a spokeswoman for the American
Energy Drinks: The Back Story
Since Red Bull, the first energy drink to hit the U.S. market, launched in
1997, the market has boomed, Griffiths says, now totaling at least $5.4 billion
a year in the U.S. Hundreds of brands are available.
Although the FDA limits the caffeine contents of cola-type soft drinks to 71
milligrams per 12 fluid ounces, no such limit is required on energy drinks,
Griffiths tells WebMD.
"Makers of so-called "energy" drinks generally market them as dietary supplements," says
Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokesperson. Dietary supplements are regulated
differently than food. The FDA does not approve or review the products before
they are marketed.
Energy Drinks: Caffeine Content
Griffiths and his colleagues contacted more than two dozen makers of energy
drinks, asking for caffeine content. Here are some of the findings:
(The caffeine content is in milligrams per serving. Although serving sizes
vary, Griffiths contends that most people will drink the entire can, whatever
the number of ounces.)