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Dr. Paul Bonucci has treated many local teens in the emergency room at Illinois Valley Community Hospital as a result of consuming too many energy drinks. “We’ve seen patients where part of the problem is they are jacked up on energy drinks,” he said. “Patients feel restless and sweaty; they have an elevated blood pressure and are jittery. The problem is that there have been reported fatalities nationally.” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office recently announced it is asking energy drink companies to stop marketing their products to children. The Democratic senator from Illinois sent a letter this week to the CEOs of Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster asking for an explanation for the companies’ sponsorship of sporting events that target children. Durbin says the companies have often claimed they do not market their drinks to youngsters. But he says he is aware of multiple situations that contradict their claims. “Over the past year, there has been growing concern about the potential health risks posed by energy drinks,” Durbin wrote in the letters to the energy drink companies. “Your company has stated that it does not market energy drinks to children, however, we have learned about numerous instances which contradict that claim. In light of public health concerns regarding the consumption of high levels of caffeine by children and adolescents and your company’s position that your energy drink products are not marketed to children, we are deeply concerned by evidence demonstrating direct marketing of your products to youth.” Durbin cites several examples in his letter, including a high school football tournament and a motorcycle race for children as young as thirteen endorsed by Red Bull. Durbin says his letter stems out of growing concerns during the past year about the potential health risks posed by energy drinks. And those health risks could be valid, Bonucci said. “Nobody knows what the long-term affects of teenagers ingesting large amounts of caffeine will be,” he said. But what doctors such as Bonucci do know is that one typical can of energy drink is akin to consuming three times the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee. So when teens use energy drinks thinking it enhances their sports performance, what’s really happening is they are intaking so much caffeine that it works opposite and dehydrates them. It also leaves them with a temporarily elevated blood pressure which could become dangerous. “It actually dehydrates you because caffeine is a diuretic which causes you to urinate more,” he said. “If they need energy, nothing beats simple carbs, fruits and vegetables. A slice of fruit on the sideline is the best rehydration agent you can have.” Last year, Durbin and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote a series of letters to the FDA urging the agency to take action to ensure energy drinks are properly regulated. In response, the FDA confirmed it is reviewing the safety of energy drinks containing caffeine and other ingredients that act as stimulants. The FDA also said it may take regulatory action if a health risk is found. The agency is expected to report those findings in June.