Energy drinks are commonly found in gas stations and grocery stores, but what makes them appealing to kids is they are packaged in colorful cans, said Pamela A. Ponce, MD of Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, a pediatric hospital in Orlando, Florida. Energy drinks are also marketed as a great choice of beverage when children are tired or need a “boost” in energy.
However, these beverages contain high levels of sugar and caffeine. Hence, the medical community strongly discourages parents from letting their kids consume energy drinks regardless of the amount.
Surveys About Energy Drink Consumption Among Young People
Michele Totaro and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate conducted a survey in two Italian high schools from September 2016 to June 2017, finding that 40% of 583 respondents never consumed energy drinks (EDs) due to their “nasty flavor and nutritional parameters.” According to their 2018 study, 12% often consumed EDs and 48% occasionally consumed EDs either during parties or other fun activities during the night.
12% drank EDs several times a week, with most being youth athletes participating in matches or training sessions in the evening. Hence, only 14% of all ED consumers had consumed these beverages in the last three days. The study also revealed that 25% of participants consumed EDs with alcohol while 75% consumed alcoholic drinks or soft drinks during parties. Among EDs-alcohol consumers, 56% mixed alcohol and EDs at the same time or in the same glass while 44% drank EDs-alcohol at different periods.
65% of participants practiced sports activities during the week and among physically active students, while 45% never consumed EDs before sports sessions. Further, 45% often drank EDs prior to training while 10% regularly drank EDs before engaging in sports. Among physically active youths drinking EDs, 80% consumed only once can per session, 11% needed at least two cans for a session, and 9% had to drink over two cans. The authors emphasized the need for primary prevention measures to ensure people’s awareness about the risks of drinking EDs, which were mostly associated with alcohol and during physical activities.
In a 2020 study by Towhid Hasan and colleagues of research and online journal hub Emerald Insight, 46.7% of students studying in a Bangladeshi university self-reported that they had never consumed EDs, 5% had tried only once, and 11% consumed this beverage for a while but later stopped. 37.3% said they occasionally consume EDs while none said they consume them on a regular basis.
The most common reasons for consuming EDs were to increase concentration while studying (0.5%), to boost performance during exercise (1.9%), and to feel energetic (27.7%). The students also consumed EDs for its taste (32.4%) and for no particular reason (37.5%). Among the reasons for not consuming EDs were as follows: high calories (0.5%), no need for extra energy (1.6%), not aware of its ingredients (5.3%), perceiving them as addictive (9.1%), no curiosity to try (23.5%), no particular reason (26.8%), and thinking of EDs as unhealthy (33.2%).
Among respondents who had consumed EDs, 59.2% noticed no effect of drinking one while 27.2% felt more energy. 10.3% felt happier, 1.4% said it helped increase their concentration while studying, 0.9% felt less sleepy, and 0.9% felt an increase in muscle strength. Respondents who regularly consumed EDs experienced the following negative effects: anxiety (7.4%), thirst (6%), restlessness (5.4%), insomnia/sleeplessness (3.4%), irritability (2.7%), headache (2%), and vertigo/dizziness (0.7%).
Hasan and colleagues highlighted the need for both community and individual level interventions to empower individuals to make intelligent and firm decisions about their dietary habits and health. Hence, it is crucial to launch nutrition-focused education programs about the dangers of consuming ED, its nutritional components, and more.
What Happens When Your Child Consumes Energy Drinks?
Pediatric cardiologist Peter Aziz, MD, said they commonly see patients who reported developing palpitations, quoted Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center. Physicians often tackle the root cause of the palpitations, finding out the patients have a history of consuming caffeinated beverages like energy drinks, stated Dr. Aziz.
One cup of coffee contains approximately 95 milligrams of caffeine, but the amount of caffeine in one energy drink is increased. According to the American Heart Association, a non-profit organization, one can or bottle of energy drink can contain up to 400 milligrams of caffeine. Energy drinks can also cause seizures, mania, stroke, and in rare situations, death.
The aforementioned effects can also happen in healthy children with no known health conditions. However, excess consumption of stimulants can amplify symptoms, especially if your child has existing conditions such as asthma or heart disease. Dr. Aziz said, “An enormous amount of caffeine at one time may trigger a handful of diseases that a lot of parents didn’t know existed for their child.”
Alarmingly, regularly drinking energy drinks can cause health issues associated with consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar. For instance, a 16 oz. container of an energy drink may have 62 grams of added sugar, noted the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a government agency of the US. This amount exceeds the recommended maximum daily added sugar intake for children, making your child susceptible to developing diabetes, obesity, and other health complications.
What Should My Child Drink?
It is recommended to encourage your child to drink regular water, low-fat milk, or all-natural juice. If your little wants a little “boost,” try preparing sliced fresh fruit, baby carrots, whole-wheat crackers, or other healthy snacks to prevent them from becoming exhausted or hungry.
You can also open discussions with your child about the risks of drinking energy drinks, especially if you have a teen who may be purchasing energy drinks without your knowledge. Be sure to dispel myths about these beverages. Tell your child that these beverages do not help them lose weight or staying up at night studying for a test. Make a list of healthy alternatives as kids are more likely to be tempted of drinking too many caffeinated beverages.
Model good behavior by stopping yourself from consuming energy drinks. Regardless of a person’s age, energy drinks are unhealthy. “Anything synthetic, generally speaking, is dangerous. Energy drinks are a perfect example of that,” Dr. Aziz Added.
Energy drinks are unhealthy for people of any age. Kids may be more susceptible to developing diabetes and other risks if they excessively consume energy drinks. Parents should encourage their children to opt for healthy drinks or food if they want to have an extra “boost” in energy.