In England, a man tells how his excessive and daily consumption of energy drinks led him to the hospital. This man militates for a better supervision of young people, a request also made by a French consumer association earlier this year. Indeed, these drinks are more and more visible on the shelves while the regulation in this field is not precise.

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By sharing his experience, he hopes to alert people to the risks associated with excessive consumption of these drinks. In several English media outlets, including The Sunand The Mirror newspapers, Lee Kamen, 53, recounts how he suffered a heart attack after drinking between 8 and 12 cans of energy drinks every day for a year. The event occurred in 2017 at the age of 49, when he did not drink or smoke.

"I used to drink between eight and twelve energy drinks a day, Red Bull and Monster. I used to go to a wholesaler for the bar and buy cases of twenty-four cans and drink them like any other drink. I worked a lot and drank it to keep me going. That lasted for about a year," he says.

Lee Kamen survived but was fitted with a stent (a device used in cardiology to keep an artery open) and must now take medication for life. "When I was in the hospital, the doctor explained to me that the cause of my heart attack was my consumption of energy drinks. I had no idea it was bad to drink them. It was quite a shock at the time, but now I'm passionate about it," he says. The second shock came when his 10-year-old daughter came home from school one day with a can of an energy drink in her hand, which he "emptied directly into the sink. "After discovering that she had bought it at a nearby store, he asked the school to send out an e-mail to warn the parents.

His fight: ban the sale of these drinks to minors

Today, this father of family wishes to express himself with the aim of educating the adults and militates to prohibit the sale of these drinks to the under 16 years. In the meantime, it is, according to him, up to store managers to be responsible, both supermarkets and small grocery stores. There is growing concern about the potential cardiovascular risks of excessive consumption of energy drinks. Earlier this year, a case report published in the scientific journal BMJ Case Reports detailed how a 21-year-old man with no medical history suffered severe biventricular heart failure (when both sides of the heart are affected) after drinking four cans of energy drinks every day for two years.

The patient eventually ended up in intensive care after four months of shortness of breath on exertion, shortness of breath while lying down and weight loss. While these products are gaining popularity worldwide, the impact of excessive and chronic consumption on the cardiovascular system remains poorly understood. In France, the consumers' association Consommation logement cadre de vie (CLCV) militates for a better supervision after having deciphered the label of 10 of them last March. In particular, the list of ingredients: sugar, glucose and glucose syrup are at the top of the list after carbonated water, which explains why 8 out of 10 drinks have a Nutri-Score D or E.

Caffeine, taurine... no specific legislation in France

The other ingredients, even more problematic, are taurine and stimulating substances like caffeine. And this at high levels: 23 mg/100 ml on average, or the equivalent of 3 espressos for a 500 ml can). "The health effects of this cocktail of ingredients are still not well known... In France, the Nutrivigilance system has been recording reports of undesirable effects linked to the consumption of these drinks for 10 years. The main symptoms observed are cardiovascular (chest pain, tachycardia, hypertension...) and neurological (irritability, anxiety...). Caffeine has been considered the primary trigger of these symptoms," notes the CLCV. It regrets that there is still no specific legislation for energy drinks.

Therefore, there is no maximum quantity for ingredients such as taurine and caffeine. "Today, the regulation only imposes the mention "high caffeine content, not recommended for children and pregnant or lactating women" on the label of drinks containing more than 150 mg/L of caffeine, except for the values present in the code of good conduct signed by the manufacturers", adds the association. Its first request is to fix maximum quantities in energy drinks by taking into account their real conditions of consumption by teenagers". It also wants "a much clearer labeling that advises against mixing with alcohol and reminds that energy drinks are not suitable for physical effort. "

In 2017 the Anses*, which has evaluated the safety of these drinks several times, revealed that more than 200 cases of adverse reactions have been reported under a monitoring system set up since 2008. The organization is not able to give a maximum limit of consumption but warns especially against risky practices related to caffeine, considered as the major explanatory factor. It also recommends to avoid consuming energy drinks with alcohol or during physical exercise (they increase the loss of mineral salts and increase the risk of heat stroke). Finally, it invites pregnant and breast-feeding women, children, adolescents or people with certain pathologies to be vigilant about their caffeine intake.

*National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety