Keep Your Kids Away From Energy Drinks

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on July 19, 2018 · 1 comment

Kids as young as 10 know about energy drinks and perceive them as cool to drink with their friends, but few understand anything about their negative consequences. The use of energy drinks by teens is a global issue seen in the US, Europe, the Middle East, South America, New Zealand and Australia. Boys are more likely than girls to abuse these beverages. The teens that drink the most are either physically active to improve performance or are involved in extensive screen-based activities such as playing video games.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of energy drinks for children of all ages, but one has to wonder if pediatricians address this issue with parents at routine visits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine recommend that all beverages available in schools be caffeine-free. Taste, price, promotion, ease of access, and peer influence are key factors for the use of energy drinks by adolescents and young adults. Teens say these drinks give them energy, help them study, improve their sports performance, makes them feel cool, help them lose weight, and they believe they can drink them and still drive safely. Little if any information is ever provided about the harmful effects. Marketers talk enthusiastically about perceived benefits but few are grounded in scientific facts.

Sean Nordt, MD, PharmD, is an international expert on emergency medicine and toxicology. His research found that 15% of teens mix alcohol in their energy drinks and 9% used energy drink plus illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. He also discovered that 40% of teens had an adverse effect from energy drinks. The most common side effects include:

  • Insomnia
  • Feeling jittery
  • Heart palpitations
  • GI distress
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Labored breathing
  • Seizures

Bottom line: Evidence is mounting that there are more negative health effects for children, teens and young adults from energy drinks than any perceived benefit. Maybe they need a warning label.

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