MAY 17, 2017 2:16 PM PDT

Diagnosed: Teen Death Caused by Excess Caffeine

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

The death of a 16-year-old high school student from South Carolina has been attributed to too much caffeine, too quickly.

Davis Allen Cripe was a typical high school teenager. He had no history of serious health issues, no pre-existing heart conditions. And at 200 pounds, Cripe may not have been at an ideal healthy weight, but he was not considered morbidly obese. So when Cripe suddenly collapsed during class and subsequently died, everyone wanted to know what happened.

Hours before Cripe collapsed, friends say the teen drank three high-caffeine drinks in a two-hour window. The drinks included a McDonald’s cafe latte, a large Diet Mountain Dew soda, and an energy drink.

After an autopsy, Coroner Gary Watts found no hidden heart defects. Watts ruled the death was likely due to  "caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia.”

"This is not a caffeine overdose," said Watts. "We're not saying that it was the total amount of caffeine in the system, it was just the way that it was ingested over that short period of time, and the chugging of the energy drink at the end was what the issue was with the cardiac arrhythmia."

The cause of death is shocking to anyone, but especially to Davis’ parents. "Like all parents, we worry about our kids as they grow up. We worry about their safety, their health, especially once they start driving. But it wasn't a car crash that took his life. Instead, it was an energy drink," said Sean Cripe, Davis’ father. "Parents, please talk to your kids about the dangers of these energy drinks.”

Caffeine is widely popular for its effects as a stimulant. But the compound is addictive and with regular exposure, people can build a tolerance to caffeine without even knowing it.

For young children between 12 and 18 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day. In particular, "children and adolescents are advised to avoid energy drinks. They can contain a significant amount of caffeine as well as other stimulants," said Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, nutrition specialist and vice chairwoman in the department of nutrition at the University of California, Davis.

It’s estimated that Davis Cripe may have consumed about 470 milligrams of caffeine in the span of two hours. The bulk of the caffeine intake would have come from the energy drink, which can have as much as 240 milligrams of caffeine.  

“We lost Davis from a totally legal substance," said Watts. "Our purpose here today is to let people know, especially our young kids in school, that these drinks can be dangerous, and be very careful with how you use them, and how many you drink on a daily basis."

Additional source: CNN

Image credit: pixabay.com

About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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