Kids and Teens--Just Say No to Energy Drinks

A study issued by the AAP strongly stresses the dangers of allowing developing children and teenagers to consume sugary and dangerous energy drinks.

, a study issued by the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) strongly stresses the dangers of allowing developing children and teenagers to consume sugary and dangerous energy drinks; sports drinks were also subject for debate in the study, published in the journal Pediatrics.

"The question was, are there appropriate times when kids should be drinking these, and times when they shouldn't be drinking them?" said Dr. Marci Schneider, a member of the AAP nutrition committee and lead author of the report.

The study was careful to differentiate between energy drinks and sports drinks. “Sports drinks and energy drinks are significantly different products, and the terms should not be used interchangeably,” stated the study abstract.

Energy drinks can contain over 500 milligrams of caffeine— the equivalent of fourteen cans of soda, said Schneider. "Some kids are drinking energy drinks—containing large amounts of caffeine—when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise. This means they are ingesting large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can be dangerous."

The ingredients of the highly caffeinated energy drinks—such as herbal stimulants—can result in high blood pressure, as well as insomnia and other health issues in adults. If the severity of the reaction can be so high in adults, imagine how much higher it can be in children and teenagers, both of whom are not finished developing just yet.

Schneider, who is an adolescent medicine physician in Greenwich, Connecticut, said that energy drinks should never be consumed by children and teens due to the potential health risks. Sports drinks, she said, can play a role for athletes who need more than just water to replenish their fluids.

When it comes down to it, however, the study discovered that most children and teens are not engaged in the vigorous activities that require sports drinks, and the majority of sports drinks are consumed by youths when they are eating meals—therefore, at a resting state, not an active one. In these cases, water is the suitable beverage.

The report also stated that “frequent or excessive intake of caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents.” According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has risen in the United States to roughly 17% between the years 2007 and 2008, going up from 5% in the years 1971 and 1974.

"[Sports drinks] are flavored waters that, in most cases, contain carbohydrates and, certainly, for our country where obesity is such an issue, why promote something that has calories that the majority of kids don't need?" said Schneider.

Unfortunately, it seems that no one told that to the schools American children attend. Beverage manufacturers reported that their share of sports drinks in educational facilities increased 5% between the years 2004 and 2007, Time reports.

“We know that caffeine raises heart rate, blood pressure, speech rates and motor activity, and affects how much acid your stomach secretes, your body temperature and how much you sleep or don't sleep," said Schneider. "Do these kids really need caffeine as part of their lives? The answer is no."