Energy drinks pose risks to health, ministry says

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Energy drinks pose risks to health, ministry says

Kim Tae-yeong, a senior high school student in Iksan, North Jeolla, was getting anxious about an upcoming school exam last year. Determined to spend the night cramming, he cracked open an energy drink.

Within an hour, he could feel his heart beating through his chest.

“I couldn’t even read because of what was happening to my heart. And my eyes also started to feel itchy,” said Kim, who hasn’t consumed an energy drink since, for fear of how it could affect his body.

In Korea, the market for such highly caffeinated beverages reached 100 billion won ($94.5 million) last year, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which is more than 3 times the amount recorded in 2011 at 30 billion won.

The industry has seem a boost in recent years from the nation’s workforce, notorious for its long office hours, as well as teenage students who are under an enormous amount of pressure to succeed academically in an education-obsessed society.

Acknowledging the potential risks energy drinks pose for teenagers like Kim and those with underlying health problems, the ministry cautioned the public on Nov. 29, urging them to be aware of the amount of caffeine they are consuming daily from coffee and high-stimulant products.

“Excessive consumption of caffeine can cause insomnia and [negatively affect the nervous system],” the state-run food and drug regulator stated, warning minors to be attentive to their caffeine intake.

According to the ministry, one energy drink - an average can - contains 62 milligrams of caffeine, which is more than half the daily recommended dose for a 40-kilogram (88-pound) child at 100 milligrams. For a teenager weighing 60 kilograms, the daily recommended dose is 150 milligrams. The ministry reported that 3,896 tons worth of energy drinks were imported during the first eight months of this year, a significant increase from 53 tons imported in 2010.

The ministry added that 27,950 tons of highly caffeinated drinks were produced domestically over the same period - more than an eight-fold increase from 2010, when 3,127 tons were manufactured.

In response to the recent trend of young people mixing energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, the ministry said that there have been reports of consumers experiencing heart palpitations and even acute kidney injury.

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