Marathoner Died After Using Supplement: Should Energy Drugs Be Banned From The Market? [REPORT]

By IScience Times Staff Reporter on January 30, 2013 10:22 PM EST

London marathon
After a marathoner died using an energy supplement, the medical community is debating once again whether energy drinks, powders and pills should be looked at more closely for their dangerous effects. (Photo: Reuters)

After a healthy marathoner died using an energy supplement, the medical community is questioning once again whether performance-enhancing stimulants are more dangerous than previously believed.

Claire Squires, a 30-year-old London woman, fell to the ground near Buckingham Palace last April towards the end of the city marathon. After a full investigation by the coroner, evidence has shown that the energy supplement Jack3D contributed to her heart failure.

"Claire's death has left a gaping hole in our hearts and in our lives, but we'll always remember her with a big smile on her face, trying to make everyone she met feel good about themselves," her partner Simon Van Herrewege told the Daily Mail

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"Claire was passionately against the use of drugs and would never, ever, have taken anything that would have caused her harm or even worse risked her life," he continued. "She innocently took a supplement which at the time was entirely legal, and widely available on the high street, and somewhat worryingly, apparently used by so many others."

After the London marathoner's death, the coroner found that her water bottle had a scoop of the supplement inside. Jack3D features a stimulant called DMAA, or dimethylamylamine. Ironically only four months later, in August, Jack3D was banned in England when it was found to be too dangerous. 

"DMAA ... on the balance of probabilities, in combination with extreme physical exertion, caused acute cardiac failure, which resulted in her death," coroner Philip Barlow said.

"The substance is on the [WADA] banned list, but the only athletes to be tested would be elite athletes," London Marathon spokeswoman Nicola Okey told The Associated Press. "We just ask the rest of the runners to be medically fit. We don't make any other inquiries about what substances they are taking.

"We will be amending our medical advice following the inquest's verdict. We obviously give medical advice, but it hasn't mentioned before the use of supplements."

Jack3D's manufacturer, Ultra-Premium Supplements, responded to criticism, defending the supplement. "USPlabs sympathizes with the family of Ms. Squires for their tragic loss," the Dallas-based company said in a statement emailed by London publicists. "We continue to stand by the safety of the dietary ingredient 1, 3 DMAA. The ingredient has been the subject of seven clinical trials supporting its safety when used as directed. These studies place 1,3 DMAA among the most studied dietary ingredients on the market."

This is not the first death associated with an energy drink or supplement. 5 Hour Energy, a two-ounce drink that offers stimulation without a crash later, is being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration for possible links to 13 deaths in the last four years.

The disturbing reports come on the heels of other F.D.A. filings about connections between energy drinks and health problems. The F.D.A. said it had received multiple filings linking deaths to another energy drink, Monster Energy.

The company that produces 5 Hour Energy, Living Essentials LLC, has had a windfall since launching the product in 2004. According to Forbes, it grossed more than $600 million in 2011 on $1 billion of retail sales.

Available in nine flavors and retailing, on average, for a $2.99 to $3.49 apiece, 5 Hour energy dominates the category despite mounted efforts by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Red Bull, according to Forbes.

The formula is a "blend of B-vitamins [like niacin], amino acids [such as taurine] and nutrients," the website says, and "about as much caffeine as a cup of premium coffee." But a 2010 analysis by ConsumerLab.com found that 5 Hour had levels of vitamins "thousands of times higher than recommended daily allowances," as well as "207mg of caffeine -- a massive amount per ounce, but less than the 260mg in a Starbucks tall coffee."

Nevertheless, Americans looking for an instant boost have run to convenient stores like 7-11 to buy multiple cases at once. One of the company's most effective targets? Teenagers and 20-somethings. The parents of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who died in December filed a lawsuit against the company that produces Monster Energy Drink, citing a link between the product and her death.

The complaint, which was filed on Oct. 19, said Anais Fournier of Hagerstown, Md. went into cardiac arrest after drinking two, 24-ounce Monster drinks in a 24-hour period.

The autopsy found that Fournier died of an arrhythmia from caffeine toxicity that prevented her heart from pumping blood correctly. Previously, she had suffered from a disorder that can weaken blood vessels.

The founder of Living Essentials - and creator of 5 Hour Energy - Manoj Bhargava told Forbes in February: "I'm killing it right now," as he sat in his office in Farmington Hills, Mich. That's probably a statement he wishes he could take back right now. But these profiles aren't going anywhere, and Bhargava may need to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions.

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