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Four Cans Of Red Bull: How Much Risk?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 Four Cans Of Red Bull: How Much Risk?

According to a report in the Mail by Chris Brooke (03 02 09) it has emerged that a young female student’s death may have been brought about by drinking four cans of Red Bull, an inquest was told.

In addition, Chloe Leach, 21, had also drunk a further couple of vodka-based alcopops. The drinks all contained caffeine. Ms Leach collapsed on the dancefloor.

It was understood that Chloe was suffering from an undetected and rare heart condition. However evidence shows that her heart beat may have speeded up as a consequence of the caffeine in her bloodstream.

Indeed the drink has become a hit with youngsters as it helps them to party longer. Though there have been concerns in relation to its health effects. More significantly, the drink has been banned in certain countries.

Miss Leach was a third-year social work student at the University of Lincoln’s Hull campus with everything to live for.

Every 250ml can of Red Bull contains 80mg of the stimulant caffeine, which the inquest heard is twice as much as a cup of coffee.

The inquest was told that on the night of September 30 last year, Ms Leach drank wine at her friends house along with four cans of Red Bull and about two VK vodka-based drinks, before going to the Sugar Mill nightclub in Hull.

A post mortem revealed that Ms Leach, who was diagnosed in 2001 with epilepsy, had an abnormally large heart.

Dr Ian Scott, a consultant neuropathologist, told the Hull inquest that her sudden death was probably caused by ‘cardiac arrhythmia due to underlying QT Syndrome’.

The hearing heard that Chloe’s mother Tina had suffered a heart attack some time ago and her cousin had previously died suddenly, which meant her entire family were scanned to search for defects.

Notwithstanding, she had a QT ‘upper limit’ which Dr Scott added could have increased in the years following her scans. Although she was never officially diagnosed with the condition.

It is understood that the hearts of those with long QT syndrome may beat so quickly and erratically that death results. Dr Scott said Miss Leach’s QT levels – which relate to heart rhythm – ‘may have been artificially pushed over the limit by caffeine’.

The pathologist ruled out an epileptic seizure as the cause of death.

Miss Leach’s mother Tina told the hearing there were many things that did not add up about her daughter’s death.

She said: ‘Chloe was careful regarding her consumption of caffeine. She would drink Red Bull occasionally and was aware it contained caffeine.

‘My concern is that we will never be able to prove she had QT Syndrome. We will always doubt the circumstances surrounding Chloe that night.

According to Ellouise Maxwell a close friend of Ms Leach, she said, she was the top student out of 90 on the course. ‘She was a happy, funny, optimistic, positive girl,’ she said.

It was initially thought that Chloe’s drink had been spiked but the theory was rebutted by a medical expert at the hearing.

‘I excluded drugs as a cause - the only drugs she had taken was her anti-epilepsy medication,’ Dr Scott said.

Coroner Geoffrey Saul recorded a verdict of death by natural causes and backed the pathologist’s evidence that Miss Leach’s undiagnosed heart condition caused her death and caffeine in the Red Bull may have played a part.

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