Energy drinks may contain harmful levels of hydrogen peroxide, study warns

The research indicates that people are drinking diluted hydrogen peroxide when they consume some Energy drinks.

A Monash-led study of food chemistry has found that people may be exposed to harmful levels of hydrogen peroxide when they consume some Energy drinks.

The study, published today in Food Chemistry was led by Professor Louise Bennett from the Monash School of Chemistry.

Professor Bennett is the course director of Monash University’s Master of Food Science and Agribusiness.

The food industry typically uses hydrogen peroxide for sanitisation, and in Australia, residues of up to 5 mg/kg are allowed in a food or beverage products. The body produces hydrogen peroxide as a signalling molecule and the levels in the range of less than 0.0003 mg/kg,  can be inactivated by cellular processes. In contrast, hydrogen peroxide present in a beverage is stabilised in the acidic environments of the beverage and of the stomach after consumption.

But the study led by Professor Bennett has found that some Energy drinks contain higher levels of hydrogen peroxide than would be naturally produced in the body.

“The research indicates that people are drinking diluted hydrogen peroxide when they consume some Energy drinks,” Professor Bennett said.

“The long term effects may explain some cancer risk trends in the age group who consume Energy drinks,” she said.

The levels measured are 15,000-fold higher than the natural levels produced in the body and although the levels permitted by Australian regulators are up to 5 mg/kg, in many countries, the permitted levels are lower (0-0.5 mg/kg).

“This reflects that toxicity is not well understood, particularly for regular consumption of ~350 ml such as a in a commercial beverage,” Professor Bennett said.

“We have analysed the levels of hydrogen peroxide in a range of commercial beverages and found that some chemical combinations of ingredients in Energy drinks can drive this chemistry.

“We are hoping that our research will lead to new standards for avoiding production of hydrogen peroxide in these types of popular beverages.”

The research was not only led by Monash but also entirely funded by the University.

Professor Bennett said she was hoping to work with individual companies to manage the problem.

“Our current research is addressing how to avoid or degrade the hydrogen peroxide,” she said.

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