Energy drinks remain a small part of the carbonated soft drinks market, representing only 3.3 percent of sales volume, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest. Even as soda consumption has flagged in recent years, energy drinks sales are growing rapidly.
In 2011, sales volume for energy drinks rose by almost 17 percent, with the top three companies — Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar — each logging double-digit gains, Beverage Digest found. The drinks are often marketed at sporting events that are popular among younger people such as surfing and skateboarding.
From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which data was available, people from 18 to 25 were the most common age group seeking emergency treatment for energy drink-related reactions, the report found.
"We were really concerned to find that in four years the number of emergency department visits almost doubled, and these drinks are largely marketed to younger people," said Al Woodward, a senior statistical analyst with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration who worked on the report.
Emergency physician Steve Sun said he had seen an increase in such cases at the Catholic hospital where he works on the edge of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
"I saw one young man who had mixed energy drinks with alcohol and we had to admit him to the hospital because he was so dehydrated he had renal failure," Sun said. "Because he was young he did well in the hospital, but if another patient had had underlying coronary artery disease, it could have led to a heart attack."