Energy Drinks Harmful to Children

Energy drinks are sold in more than 140 countries worldwide. In just the U.S. alone, sales are expected to cross $9 billion in 2011. Children, teenagers, and young adults alone consume energy drinks totaling around half the entire US market consumption. Results showed that nearly 30 to 50 percent of young people consumed these drinks. In those who have diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease or mental disorders, these drinks were found to be particularly harmful. This study was conducted to look at the effects of such drinks on people 25 years and younger. Authors conclude, “Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated.”

Energy drinks are made from high concentrations of caffeine, taurine, vitamins, herbal supplements, sugar or sweeteners. Increasing energy, enhancing sports performance, elongating endurance and stamina, and improving concentration are the many benefits energy drink companies claim their products can deliver. There has been concern that overconsumption of caffeine and other understudied chemicals or herbal supplements in these drinks could be harmful. This study was a review of evidence from earlier studies and media material to assess what these drinks are made of, what are the consumption statistics in various age groups, how and why do they lead to caffeine poisoning, and how these harmful effects are brought about. The study also assessed marketing strategies used to sell these drinks to young people. The purpose of the study was to educate and bring to attention the extent of harm that these drinks can cause in young people and suggest regulatory measures to prevent such harm.

This study was a review of many previous studies dated up to January 2011. For this research the authors used the medical database, PedMed, to search for key words and terms such as “energy drink”, “sports drink”, “caffeine”, “diabetes”, “children”, adolescents”, “insulin”, “eating disorders” and “poison control center,” etc. Authors also did an Internet search, using Google, to find media material. These searches produced articles related to harmful effects of energy drinks in youngsters.

Results/Key findings
* Survey results revealed that 30 to 50 percent of young people, less than 25 years of age, were consuming energy drinks with high levels of caffeine.
* The energy drinks were found to be particularly harmful among youngsters with other diseases like epilepsy, diabetes, heart disorders, and mental ailments like mood or behavioral problems.
* Nearly half (46 percent) of the caffeine poisonings occurring in America were seen in people less that 19 years of age in 2007. Total number of caffeine poisonings in 2007 was 5,448.
* In response to awareness regarding the harmful effects of these drinks in the young, many countries have come up with restrictive strategies towards sales and promotion of these drinks.
* Energy drinks were seen to have no theraputic benefits

Next steps/Shortcomings
Authors suggest that further long term studies are warranted, especially to check the effects of long term use. More studies are also needed to check its effects in people who have other medical disorders and mental ailments. However, this review outlines the need for stricter regulations to control the use of these drinks in young people.

The authors suggest that in spite of the need for future studies, there is evidence enough to regulate the consumption of energy drinks among youngsters; especially those with pre-existing medical or psychiatric conditions. They suggest that these regulatory measures may prevent health problems. They add that the marketing strategies for these drinks are targeting young people and most makers advertise these drinks to be of nutritional value. The authors support the need for further research and regulating measures to help families of the children and teenagers who are at risk of caffeine poisoning and other health problems that may occur with energy drinks.

For More Information:
Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults
Publication Journal: Pediatrics, February 2011
By Sara M. Seifert; Judith L. Schaechter, MD; University of Miami, Florida

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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