February 1, 2011

Research based on a variety of data sources shows that energy drinks are both overused and dangerous to children and teens. Energy drinks containing high concentrations of caffeine or similar ingredients can lead to seizures, heart palpitations and sudden death according to a report published in the journal Pediatrics. For coffee-loving communities like Portland and Seattle, the idea that caffeine is dangerouscould lead to dramatic lifestyle changes.

But energy drinks contain more caffeine than a cup of coffee and, for kids, four or five times more caffeine than a can soda. And, many of these drinks include ingredients that boost the “jittery” effect of the caffeine. These are just a couple of reasons behind their regular use by a reported one third of teens and young adults. Widespread popularity combined with projected sales of $9 billion for 2011 means that energy drinks are probably here to stay.

Even after 20 years on the market, though, there’s not much research on side effects or long-term health effects among kids and teens, especially those with complicating medical conditions. The author of the study claims to know some kids who drink four or five cans a day.

There is data to support his claim. The American Association of Poison Control Centers began to track energy drink overdoses and side effects across the country toward the end of 2010. From October to the end of December, 677 cases were logged. So far this year 331 cases have been reported.

The 2011 cases have mostly involved children and teens, according to the report. The scariest statistic is that children under age 6 accounted for a quarter of those 331 cases. The list of symptoms associated with the energy drink poisonings is long, and it includes no deaths. It does, however, include seizures, hallucinations, chest pain and rapid heart rate.

The authors want pediatricians to talk to patients and parents about the risks of energy drinks — even to advise against using the drinks. The report is a small step along the road to understanding the effects of these drinks on kids and to developing guidelines for caffeine use among children and teens.

Source: MSNBC, “Energy drinks can be dangerous for teens, report says,” 02/14/11


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