Americans are drawn to products that promise health, beauty, status, and vitality. Flashy packaging and punchy names such as “Monster’, “Rockstar”,“Full Throttle”, and “Jack3d”, promise to deliver a burst of energy to even the most fatigued while providing healthful benefits or significant weight loss. What consumers don’t know is how dangerous a particular ingredient found in these products can be to the body in large quantities. With the recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning against dimethylamylamine (DMAA), an ingredient found in several energy drinks and dietary supplements, the dangers of these products are finally being exposed and manufacturers are being scrutinized for supposedly putting profit over consumer safety. 

Eighty-six reports of serious health complications such as heart attacks, seizures, mental health issues, and deaths, were said to be associated with the consumption of products containing DMAA. This prompted the FDA to issue a warning earlier this month, citing that consumers should stay away from any products containing this ingredient. The agency sees DMAA as a new additive on the market that still needs to be tested. With recent health complications being linked to DMAA, the FDA could challenge the safety of DMAA and ban the ingredient from the market altogether.

DMAA is not the only issue with energy drinks and dietary supplements. A report by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) cited the number of emergency room visits for caffeine overdose linked to energy or supplement consumption doubled, from 10,068 to 20,783, between the years 2007 and 2011. Most of the patients were teenagers and young adults. Energy drinks and supplements are typically consumed by this demographic, and most young consumers are not aware of the risk of caffeine overdose on these products. 

In an article published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at the Johns Hopkins University indicated, “Some energy drinks contain the caffeine equivalent of 14 cans of Coca-Cola. Yet, the caffeine amounts are often unlabeled, and few include warnings about the potential health risks of caffeine intoxication.”

Skimping by with vague or sometimes absent warning labels and products barely passing safety tests, it appears as if energy drink and supplement manufacturers are more concerned with increasing profit than worrying about consumer safety. At the very least, manufacturers should provide further detailed warning labels to the products in question so consumers are made aware of the dangers of consuming these products in large quantities.

“It’s time for energy drink makers to stop masking their ingredients, stop marketing to kids, and start being more transparent with their products,” said U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D-MA 5th District) in a statement to the Boston Globe. “It’s time for the FDA to crack down on these drink makers.”

Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @KrystaLoera