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The 4 Most Disgusting Energy Drinks Sold in America

We're inundated by deceptive marketing about these pricey and potentially dangerous drinks.

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Like 5-Hour Energy, Red Bull has been cited in the deaths of several individuals. In 2001, the Swedish government looked into at least three deaths in which the deceased had recently consumed Red Bull. In two of the cases, the victims had died after drink Red Bull and vodka cocktails, leading the Swedish National Food Administration to issue a formal warning against drinking the two substances together (the agency also warned against drinking Red Bull after exercising).

More recently – this past November – the FDA posted 21 cases of Red Bull users who reportedly experienced hospitalization, vomiting, heart problems, and more.

(It’s worth noting that these FDA cases likely represent only a tiny fraction of health scares related to energy drinks; according to a federal report cited in the New York Times, emergency rooms in the United States saw more than 13,000 visits in which energy drinks were tapped as a potential cause of illness.)

Beyond the drink’s potential health risks, Red Bull’s marketing is, well, weird. “Red Bull is a publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage,” content strategist James O’Brien wrote in Mashable recently. The company is deeply invested in tying its brand to anything extreme – sports, stunts, and jumps from space (again: shout out to this guy). Its website is full of videos of things like “a 12-year-old skateboarder nailing the world's first ever 1080 (that's three full revolutions) during a ramp jump.” Hardcore. But in the end, the point of all that marketing is to ell a product, and the product Red Bull is selling is snake oil (and potentially harmful snake oil at that), just like every other energy drink on the market.

3. Monster Energy

Another energy drink, another FDA inquiry into potential deaths linked to the product. In October, Monster Energy was cited in five deaths and one non-fatal heart attack. One of the deaths was that of a 14-year-old girl who passed away after drinking two Monster Energy drinks over the course of a 24-hour period. According to the AP, “[a]n autopsy concluded that she died of cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity and the medical examiner also found that she had an inherited disorder that can weaken blood vessels.” The girl’s parents sued the company, alleging that “Monster failed to warn about the risks of drinking its products.”

In an energy drink market that is growing as a whole, Monster stands out, enjoying a 35 percent share of the 2011 market, based on volume. By comparison, Red Bull had 30 percent of the market, and Rockstar 19 percent (all according to Beverage Digest). Over the past two years, Monster’s share price tripled, to a high of $79. That’s a lot of product.

But Monster and its share price were taken down a notch last August when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed Monster and other energy drink companies as part of a broad investigation of the energy drink industry, according to the AP.

Monster has also been known to be a trademark bully, even sic’ing its lawyers on websites that give their product a less than glowing review.

4. Four Loko

Four Loko is no longer marketed as an energy drink, but it’s still being included on this list. Why? Because it was shown to be so dangerous that the product’s parent company couldn’t market it as an energy drink any more.

The original Four Loko was so dangerous because it was not only high in caffeine, but high in alcohol as well. As The Week reported in 2010, “The malt-liquor based concoction, which can contain up to 12 percent alcohol and comes in eight fruity flavors, has been involved in a string of incidents in recent months in which people were hospitalized or died. Doctors say Four Loko's caffeine masks its alcoholic effects, leading drinkers to consume more than they normally would.”