Oct. 24, 2012
A wrongful death lawsuit against Monster Beverage Corp., and the release of Food and Drug Administration incident reports indicating that Monster Energy drinks might have been responsible for five deaths since 2009, have brought questions about death by caffeine back into the national spotlight.
Although death by caffeine is possible, it generally takes 5 to 10 grams of the stimulant to kill someone, toxicologists say. Anais Fournier, the 14-year-old Maryland girl at the heart of the lawsuit, whose parents allege the energy drinks caused her death, consumed 480 mg of caffeine over two days, or less than a gram of the stimulant.
“This dose would not be expected to be fatal in a normal person of that age,” said Dr. Christopher Holstege, director of toxicology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Then again, what’s lethal depends on several factors, including a person’s weight, medications and underlying health conditions. A 41-year-old woman lived after consuming 50 grams of caffeine, up to 10 times more than what’s considered a lethal dose, according to a 2003 Journal of Toxicology article.
“It is very difficult to predict one’s response to caffeine. Some people are more sensitive than others,” said Bruce Goldberger, the director of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. “Therein lies the problem. If someone has an undiagnosed medical condition, they may ingest caffeine not knowing it may have a deleterious effect, such as a cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension or anxiety.”….