Top Health Stories of 2012: Killer Energy Drinks & Manmade Body Parts

The Dr. Oz Show medical staff chose the top most innovative, interesting and influential health headlines of 2012. Each day until the new year, we’ll round up and revisit the major headlines that had a profound effect on science, medicine and your health over the last 12 months.

Headline #6 (Tie): Deaths Tied to Energy Drinks Prompt FDA Investigation

After numerous deaths and urging from legislators, the FDA started an investigation looking into the safety of energy drinks, especially caffeine-containing drinks, including Monster and 5-Hour Energy.

News broke when the parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier sued Monster; Fournier died from a cardiac arrhythmia after consuming too much caffeine from two (24-ounce) Monster drinks. Since those reports, Monster stock crashed. Many who have voiced their concerns against energy drinks claim the dangers are due to their exceedingly high caffeine content; many have several times more caffeine than a cup of coffee.
Caffeine overdose is rare, but with the onset of readily available energy drinks, the rate is increasing. Energy-drink related ER visits have skyrocketed in recent years. Researchers found that visits jumped from 1,128 in 2005 to 16,053 in 2008 and 13,144 in 2009. Dr. Oz has addressed the safety of energy drinks on the show and his blog, answering a viewer’s questions, “How do you know if you’ve overdosed on caffeine?”

Though it’s unclear whether this spike is attributed to energy drinks alone or combining the drinks with alcohol or other substances, the dangerous effects of caffeine overdose are becoming more and more apparent.

Photo Courtesy of Harvard Bioscience, Inc

Headline #6 (Tie): Cancer Patient Receives Laboratory-Grown Organ

After an organ transplant, there’s always a risk that the patient’s body will reject the new organ. But, now we can grow organs for transplant procedures with the recipient’s own cells, so the developed organ comes from the patient’s body. As a result, there’s a much smaller chance the recipient’s body will reject the organ.

The “InBreath” bioreactor, a man-made organ, was developed at Harvard Bioscience, Inc., “a global developer and manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of tools to advance life science research and regenerative medicine.”

The operation was performed in a Swedish hospital on a person suffering from late-stage tracheal cancer, which affects the windpipe. With this new technology, those suffering from tracheal cancer would not have to wait long periods of time for a suitable windpipe donor. In the future, scientists will hopefully be able to develop other commonly transplanted organs, like kidneys, livers or hearts. Until then, consider becoming an organ donor to help those who can’t afford to wait.

Read More of 2012’s Top Health Stories: