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Energy drinks can lead to serious heart issues in kids and teens, health experts say

Carlton Gillespie, Miami Herald on

Published in Health & Fitness

Hennessy Sepulveda thought she was going to die.

“I began dissociating as I was driving. I was 10 minutes away from my house. My vision started warping and the lights were hitting me really bright,” she said. “I felt my chest pounding, I felt a wave of panic hit me — I knew something was wrong.”

Sepulveda, a Florida International University student who was 19 at the time, was admitted to the hospital, and was surprised by the cause of her symptoms: the Monster energy drink she had just a few hours earlier.

“I was drinking Monster every day for the past year, “ she said. “To me the energy drink wasn’t even a possible reason for this happening.”

The energy drink market has exploded in recent years and by 2030 is expected to reach $33 billion. Much of this growth has been attributed to a shift in marketing strategies that now target young people. These drinks can contain anywhere from 200 mg to 350 mg of caffeine, and the large amounts of caffeine in these drinks can cause significant health problems, especially in teens and adolescents, health experts say.

Energy drink brands often associate themselves with video games and online celebrities, and are also promoted by influencers on platforms like Twitch, where 70% of the viewers are ages 18-34. Many popular creators either endorse or collaborate with these brands who want to leverage the influencers’ young audience.

 

“These are brands that often target Generation Z or younger generations,” said Gustavo Mosquera, professor of marketing at FIU. “That’s why energy drink brands chose influencer marketing to persuade over this generation.”

For example, Ghost energy drinks offer a “Faze Pop” flavor in collaboration with the popular esports organization FaZe Clan. Red Bull launched a can design featuring popular characters from the video game League of Legends. In 2022, YouTube personalities Logan Paul and KSI launched their own brand, PRIME, which sells energy drinks directly to their young audiences.

Another popular strategy is to partner with established brands to create flavors appealing to adolescents. Ryze energy drinks have Ring Pop, Kool-Aid, and SunnyD flavors. Ghost has Sour Patch Kids, Warheads, and Swedish Fish flavors. C4 energy drinks come in Skittles and Starburst flavors.

“Does a 15-year-old need an energy drink? Probably not,” said Mosquera, ”Because you don’t need the product, I need other ways to persuade you.”

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