The story of a young father who allegedly had a brain hemorrhage due to overconsumption of energy drinks has reopened the debate over whether the drinks carry health risks—but the story is shrouded in so much mystery that it’s unclear whether it even occurred.
Endres Photography’s Facebook page recently published a post by photographer Jane Staahl (since deleted) where a woman named Brianna (no last name was given) claimed that her husband Austin had a brain hemorrhage while she was nine months pregnant. Allegedly, Austin had to have a portion of his skull removed because of how severe the hemorrhage was, and still suffers the negative health effects.
According to the post, “the doctors concluded (after running his tox screen)… that this horrible event was due to his recent excessive energy drink consumption.” But the post did not reveal any verifying medical information, and doctors asked to comment on the case are unsure whether the incident is plausible
Caffeine is often implicated in hemorrhagic strokes (when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and leaks blood into the surrounding area) because it raises blood pressure, which can sometimes lead to vessel ruptures. But the research results are mixed. And although a 2016 study claimed to have identified “the first intracranial hemorrhage associated with energy drink consumption,” it was a single incident, and there’s little to prove that the energy drink truly caused the hemorrhage.
Although Brianna’s story has not been verified, some of the research around energy drinks is troubling. Part of the problem is that there has been little research into the impact of stimulant additives like taurine and guarana, or how they interact with caffeine. Talking to CNN earlier this year, sports cardiologist Dr. John Higgins said, “They’re sort of a black box.”
While it’s unlikely that energy drinks consumed in moderation could harm a healthy adult, one of the broad concerns is their impact on children. This concern is especially relevant after South Carolina teen Davis Allen Cripe died earlier this year from cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine overconsumption.
Energy drinks are heavily marketed to adolescents, even though a single can of Monster has more caffeine (160 g) than the CDC recommends adolescents drink in an entire day (100 g). So while Brianna’s story is unproven, the debate about energy drinks and their health effects, especially on teens, is still ongoing.
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