A lawsuit filed Monday claims that a Brooklyn man suffered a fatal heart attack as a result of drinking Red Bull.
Cory Terry was a regular drinker of Red Bull, a highly caffeinated energy drink that has sold 35 billion cans worldwide in the past 25 years.
“He drank that stuff all the time. He said it perked him up,” Patricia Terry, his grandmother, told the New York Daily News.
But according to an $85 million wrongful death suit filed Monday, that extra perk would end up killing him. In the suit, lawyer Ilya Novofastovsky said that Red Bull contains “extra stimulants that make it different than a cup of coffee,” and that those additives “are more dangerous than what Red Bull lets on.”
In 2011, Terry drank Red Bull about 45 minutes before he collapsed and died while playing basketball. A medical report made note of his consuming the drink before death.
Although genetics or health factors such as undiagnosed illness may have caused Terry’s premature death, his family told the New York Daily News that the 33-year-old father had an active lifestyle and was a non-smoker.
A Red Bull spokesperson would not comment on the lawsuit, but told The Huffington Post that the beverage is “safe to consume, [with] more than 5 billion cans consumed last year.”
This may be the first time the energy drink maker has been sued for wrongful death, but it has been accused of deceptive marketing before. In January, a suit filed against Red Bull claimed that it charged a premium for a product that “provides no more energy than a cup of coffee or a caffeine pill.”
Other energy drink makers have come under intense scrutiny following reports of deaths linked to consumption of their products. A lawsuit filed in 2012 claimed that a 14-year old girl died from cardiac arrest after drinking two, 24-ounce cans of Monster energy drink in a 24-hour period. Monster hit back the following year, saying that no blood tests were performed to determine if the girl died from “caffeine toxicity.”
In November 2012, the New York Times reported that 5-Hour Energy drinks had been cited in reports of at least 13 deaths over a four-year period.
The health risks of caffeinated beverages came to international attention in February 2013 after a New Zealand coroner’s court found that a woman who died of a heart attack in 2010 would not have died if she hadn’t been dependent on on Coca-Cola.
“I find that, when all of the available evidence is considered, were it not for the consumption of very large quantities of Coke by Natasha Harris, it is unlikely that she would have died when she died and how she died,” coroner David Crerar wrote in his findings at the time.
Health Risks Of Energy Drinks
Risk: Caffeine Overload
Many energy drinks and other products feature very large amounts of caffeine — approximately three times the amount found in a regular cup of coffee — often along with other stimulants. The problem with consuming large amounts of caffeine is two-fold, explains K. Steven Whiting, Ph.D., of Phoenix Nutritionals in San Diego and author of “Healthy Living Made Easy”. One, it targets the central nervous system directly. Two, it can lead to dehydration and loss of water-soluble nutrients that have a calming effect on the central nervous system. This combined effect can cause agitation and sleep problems and potentially lead to the development of long-term anxiety issues.
Risk: Too Many ‘Energy-Boosting’ Ingredients
Caffeine may not be the only stimulant in your energy drink. Many of these products contain similar ingredients, from various forms of caffeine to guarana, acai berry, taurine, ginseng, arnitine, creatine, inositol and ginkgo biloba — all of which have stimulating effects. “Taurine has been shown to improve athletic performance so this may be the reason why it is added to many of these drinks — and mixing taurine with caffeine may increase mental performance, but this research remains inconclusive,” says Amy Shapiro, R.D., C.D.N., of Real Nutrition in New York City.
Risk: Sugar Overload
Other dangers of energy drinks can be traced to the fact that they’re also loaded with sugar, a particular health risk for children and people at risk for diabetes. Even for non-diabetics, all the sugar causes a crash a few hours later, leaving the drinker more exhausted than before they had the drink. Keep in mind that while sugar-free energy drinks may be a better option, sugar-free versions of Red Bull, Amp, Rockstar, NOS and Crunk still carry serious risks because of their high caffeine content and artificial ingredients, including artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
Do Not Mix: Energy Drinks And Alcohol
Some energy drinks not only contain high amounts of caffeine and sugar but also high amounts of alcohol and have been associated with serious side effects, including death. Some states, including New York, have banned drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine, but many people continue to mix them through Red Bull-vodka cocktails, among others. “The combination of alcohol and caffeine may lead to adverse effects, as the presence of caffeine increases the absorption of alcohol, which can increase intoxication,” Shapiro says. Although many people may think that the caffeine in these drinks can prevent the drowsiness associated with drinking alcohol, it cannot prevent the effects that alcohol has on the brain.