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No More Energy Drinks for Your Kids

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Last week, we discussed the new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics outlining the use of sports and energy drinks.  So, what exactly is an “energy” drink?

As you know from previous post, a sports drink is a flavored beverage that contains carbohydrates, mineral and electrolytes and sometimes other vitamins and nutrients.

In contrast, an “energy” drink typically contains a stimulant such as caffeine or guarana with varying amounts of carbs, protein, amino acids as well as other minerals and/ or vitamins.

In the recently published new guidelines by the AAP they state “stimulant containing energy drinks have no place in the diets of children or adolescents”. Many of the so called energy drinks contain substances that are non-nutritive stimulants such as caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, L-carnitine, creatine and/or glucuronolactone.  All of these substances are purported to provide performance enhancing effects.

While “energy” drinks often provide carbs, the primary source of “energy” is the stimulant caffeine. Many adolescents ingest large amounts of caffeine in a variety of forms. The new “energy” drinks contain varied amounts of caffeine, and are often more than a cola beverage. The caffeine content in these “energy” drinks is often not on the label and may exceed 500 mg (equivalent to 14 CANS of a carbonated cola drink), and is enough to result in caffeine toxicity.

Did you know a lethal dose of caffeine is considered to be 200-400mg/kg?  In 2005 poison control centers reported more than 4600 calls for questions regarding caffeine ingestion and 2600 of these calls involved children less than 19 years of age.

Caffeine has effects on both the cardiovascular and developing neurologic system of a child. There is also the risk of physical dependence and addiction. One study showed that children 6-10 years of age ingested caffeine on an average of 8 out of 10 days!  Another study showed that of 78 adolescents surveyed, 42.3% had consumed energy drinks in the 2 weeks prior to the survey. Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headache, fatigue, decreased alertness, difficulty concentrating, irritability and depressed mood. (Sounds like the complaints of many teens I see).

If a child or teen is mistakenly buying an energy drink for use in re-hydration, they may be ingesting huge amounts of stimulants, especially if they are drinking one energy drink after the next. At the same time, some adolescents are intentionally buying energy drinks for the stimulant effects, in hopes of combating fatigue while at school and during sporting events.  The use of these energy drinks with underage alcohol ingestion is yet another topic.

So, there is NO Place for the use of energy drinks among children and adolescents and this topic needs to be reiterated by parents, pediatricians, schools and coaches.

What do you think? Will you talk to your kids about their use of energy drinks?  I would love your comments.

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One Response to “No More Energy Drinks for Your Kids”

  1. Toniann Conte DMD says:

    Let’s not forget about tooth decay and the effects these drinks are having on healthy teeth. Stick with water kids!

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