Red Bull$#@!

This article from today's Miami Herald is rich:
Energy drinks may pose risks for kids, study says
The sub-headline actually tells you everything you need to know:
Energy drinks such as Red Bull and others may pose risks to children, adolescents and young adults, according to a new study by the University of Miami School of Medicine. The industry disputes the claim.
But in case you want a little more detail, I will indulge you.  The study was published this morning in the American Academy of Pediatrics' peer-reviewed journal called (predeictably) Pediatrics.
The study, co-authored by Dr. Steven Lipshultz, chief of pediatrics at the UM Medical School, says the drinks “have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated.”
 I would not have guessed that it takes a medical doctor from a major research hospital to determine that Red Bull is Bad for You.  Nor would I have thought the following was news-worthy:
An 8-ounce can of Rockstar energy drink has twice the caffeine of a 14-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, the study notes.
I'm relieved to hear that the energy drink industry is standing up for itself, although I'm not quite sure who to believe.
The energy drink industry disputes the study’s findings: “This literature review does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation about energy drinks, their ingredients and the regulatory process,” said Dr. Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy for the American Beverage Association, in an e-mailed response.
On the one hand, we have a decorated veteran of academia and medicine, who has invested the time and energy necessary to develop a study, evaluate its findings, and publish his results in a well-regulated and respected journal.  On the other, we have an e-mail from a high-ranking employee of the American Beverage Association.  Both have "Dr." in front of their names, so it's basically a toss-up.

If you do choose to take Dr. Lipschultz's side, you get keen insights like this:
“Kids with diabetes are not really counseled about what’s in these drinks, and they could end up with very serious problems from sugar and caffeine,” he said.
For rehydrating after sports, he said, “drinks like Gatorade are probably OK. It’s not clear that parents or children differentiate between Gatorade and energy drinks like Red Bull.”
and this:
Another group at risk is the 8 to 12 percent of youths with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) who may try energy drinks even though they’re already on stimulants such as Ritalin to improve school performance, the study says.
“They’re not aware that the effects of a stimulant atop a stimulant may not be desirable,” Lipshultz said.
It's easy to ask a question like "where are the parents?" but I appreciate the doctor's  diplomacy.  If he just came right out and said these kids should be put in protective custody, where would he expect to find participants for his follow-up study?

Of course, the ABA has its own counter-points:
That finding, Storey said, “misinterprets the data” from the poison control centers. She said the data referred to “pharmaceutical exposures” such as over-the-counter caffeine pills, not exposure to caffeine from foods or beverages.
“Most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee,” she said.
In related news:  Children shouldn't drink coffee.  Also, I don't believe we're calling them "coffeehouses" anymore.  But more importantly, there's a crack in the ABA's story:
A Red Bull spokesman, in an e-mailed response to the study, added that because “an 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (80mg), it should be treated accordingly.” Unlike colas, said Lipshultz, energy drinks do not have a limit on how much caffeine they can contain.
So which is it?  "About half" or "about the same"?  And, what is the exact definition of "about" in this context?

Just when I was starting to favor Dr. Lipschultz in this dispute, I noticed that he may not be entirely free of any vested interest here.
The study calls for more long-term research into the effects of energy drink ingredients — such as taurine, a widely used antioxidant, and guarana, an herbal source of caffeine — combined with caffeine.
Lipshultz called his study a “systematic review of the literature,” in which he and other researchers, rather than doing original research, examined 121 other sources of information – a routine method for some scientific studies. In the review, he used scientific articles published in peer-reviewed professional journals as well as government reports and newspaper stories including articles from The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Times and USA Today.
So, rather than doing his own research, he just gathered and assimilated the work of a bunch of other people?  That sounds really familiar for some reason.  And, on top of that, he concludes that someone should be doing more research into this?  Any suggestions as to who should be vying for all that grant money, doctor?  

Finally,  just to make sure we come down on the correct side in this dispute, the Herald leaves us with this parting shot:
Lipshultz says he based the study’s critical findings on the peer-reviewed studies, and included the newspaper articles “to add anecdotal evidence.” He pointed out that his study has been accepted for publication in Pediatrics.
Appeal to Authority.  QED.