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How energy drinks can hurt your child’s health

Studies have shown that 35 percent of teenagers regularly consume energy drinks and they may be putting their health at risk.

energy drink can tops

Photo courtesy: Thinkstock

Why are teens consuming energy drinks?

It’s estimated that 50 percent teens drink at least one to four of these drinks per month. The energy drink market in the US brings in over $5 billion a year, and it has grown mainly by the increasing use of these drinks by children and adolescents.

In fact, marketing directly aimed at adolescents is now the focus for these drink manufacturers.

The main reasons given for their consumption included

  1. Lack of sleep
  2. Need for energy
  3. To mix with alcohol

What’s in energy drinks?

Most energy drinks contain the same basic ingredients: caffeine, guarana, ginseng, sugars and vitamin B.

The FDA does not regulate these drinks, but it does regulate the amounts of caffeine in cola drinks and over-the-counter caffeine-containing drugs.

How much caffeine is in these drinks?

  • Cola – 12 oz. = maximum 65 mg
  • Coffee – 6.5 oz. = 80-120 mg
  • Tea – 8 oz. = 50 mg
  • Energy drinks – 16 oz. = 154-280 mg

The American Dietetic Association recommends that children consume no more than 300mg of caffeine per day – that’s equivalent to two to three cups of coffee.

Higher doses than that can cause anxiety, mental confusion, tremors, nausea, insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure, seizures and even death.

The other ingredients have no known health or athletic performance enhancing abilities and possibly may also be toxic at high levels.

Dangerous mix: Alcohol + energy drinks

The most serious danger of these drinks occurs when they are mixed with alcohol. The caffeine can mask the symptoms of the alcohol – that can lead to higher alcohol consumption and a higher risk for harm and alcohol abuse.

One can of a caffeinated alcoholic beverage may be the equivalent to drinking a bottle of wine and a few cups of coffee. Those who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks (in comparison with those who consumed alcohol alone) had a significantly higher prevalence of alcohol-related consequences including:

  • Being taken advantage of sexually
  • Taking advantage of another sexually
  • Riding in a car with a driver under the influence of alcohol
  • Being hurt or injured
  • Requiring medical treatment

In 2010, nine university students in Washington State were hospitalized and one almost died from drinking a caffeinated alcoholic drink.

In New Jersey, one month earlier, 23 students were hospitalized after becoming intoxicated from this same product.

Parents should be aware that palpitations, headaches, insomnia, anxiety in their children could be due to their energy drink consumption.

By educating yourself and your children about the potentially dangerous consequences of energy drink consumption, you can prevent the dangers that these drinks impose and perhaps, teach that a healthy lifestyle with plenty of sleep, healthy foods and exercise are the quickest way to obtain more energy and enhance athletic performance.

About the Author

I enjoy children and love to work with them as they grow and mature. The relationships I form between my patients and their families make my career particularly rewarding. I practice medicine democratically, developing a partnership between physician, patient and family. Listening to my patients is my best asset.
Read more about me on my biography page.