Energy Drinks

Energy Drinks
Posted on 01/10/2019
energy drinkArticle by  Dr. Catharine Cesal

Did you know that the amount of caffeine in energy drinks in the US is unknown? The FDA doesn’t require energy drink companies to disclose the caffeine content in beverages including energy drinks. Meanwhile, the US has the highest sales of energy drinks worldwide. They are sold in many forms ranging from ready to drink packages to powders to shots. They are marketed to appeal to teenagers through TV, radio and social media. Energy drink companies use young music icons and extreme sports athletes and other tactics to appeal to youth watching ads to buy their products. They are promoted to help improve stamina, physical balance and energy. Their contents range from nutritive ingredients like sugar to non-nutritive elements such as caffeine, taurine, ginseng and guarana.

Caffeine is a stimulant and a drug that directly affects the nervous system. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), adolescents should not exceed more than 100 mg of caffeine a day. An average cup of coffee (8 oz) contains that much. Amazingly, some energy drinks contain more than 500 mg of caffeine in a can or bottle -- the equivalent of 14 cans of some types of sodas or 5 cups of coffee, which can result in caffeine toxicity. The AAP states, “energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents,” because of their stimulant content. Caffeine can cause insomnia, headaches, nervousness, restlessness, stomach upset, dehydration by frequent urination and anxiety amongst other symptoms. Large doses of caffeine can cause significant cardiovascular issues including palpitations and even lethal heart rhythm problems. Toxicity in children and adolescents is especially concerning due to their vulnerability with developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems. In addition, addiction potential is higher in youth.

Aside from caffeine, energy drinks also contain sugar in forms similar to those found in sodas and fruit drinks. Two cans of energy drinks could contain up to 180 mg of sugar, which exceeds the daily sugar intake by five times. Excessive sugar intake can result in obesity, diabetes and dental problems. Additionally, energy drinks also contain high sodium levels. A high sodium diet can result in hypertension, kidney problems and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Alarming estimates show that approximately 1/3 of adolescents consumed energy drinks in the US and between 2010-2011, about 5,000 poison control calls were related to energy drinks.

Another factor to consider is the limited knowledge we have about interactions of energy drinks with other nonprescription and prescription medications teenagers may take including antidepressants, stimulant drugs and antipsychotics. Therefore, it is especially important to discuss the use of energy drinks during office visits. Although the FDA has not set caffeine recommendations for youth, the AAP recommends that children should not consume caffeine. Awareness needs to be increased about these popular beverages that are widely available and not regulated, which could be harming our youth.

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