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Report Warns Energy Drinks Can Be Dangerous for Kids

Feb 14, 2011 – 10:05 AM
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Lisa Flam

Lisa Flam Contributor

Popular energy drinks made with caffeine can be dangerous for children and teens, according to a report in the journal Pediatrics, which says young people shouldn't consume the beverages.

The report found that kids with diabetes, mood disorders and heart, kidney or liver diseases could suffer from heart palpitations, seizures, cardiac arrest or death from consuming the drinks, Bloomberg reported.

"Pediatricians need to be aware of the possible effects of energy drinks," Dr. Steven Lipshultz, a pediatric cardiologist and co-author of the study, told Bloomberg.
Report Warns Energy Drinks Can Be Dangerous for Kids
Jack Dempsey, AP
A new report says caffeinated energy drinks are overused by children and teens and can be harmful to them.

Thirty percent to 50 percent of teens and young adults drink them, but, Lipshultz said, "we didn't see evidence that drinks have beneficial effects in improving energy, weight loss, stamina, athletic performance and concentration," USA Today reported.

Lipshultz urged pediatricians to talk to children and their parents about the drinks and recommended that children not drink them.

"We would discourage the routine use" by children and teens, Lipshultz, the pediatrics chairman at the University of Miami's medical school, told The Associated Press.

The report says that the drinks are overused and that many of their ingredients are under-studied. The drinks typically have more caffeine than soda and may contain guarana, a caffeine-containing plant, as well as herbal supplements and sweeteners, USA Today says.

Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy at the American Beverage Association, said the report perpetuates misinformation about energy drinks.

"When it comes to caffeine, it's important to put the facts in perspective," she told Bloomberg. "Most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar-size cup of coffeehouse coffee."

An 8.5-ounce can of energy drink can have anywhere from 50 to 160 milligrams of caffeine, while an eight-ounce cup of coffee has about 100 milligram of caffeine, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. Coca-Cola's website says Coke has 23 milligrams of caffeine for an eight-ounce serving, Bloomberg notes.

Dakota Sailor, a high school senior from Carl Junction, Mo., suffered a seizure last year after drinking two large energy drinks and was hospitalized for five days, the AP reported. Sailor, 18, had tried a brand he had never had before and said his doctors thinks his seizure was caused by caffeine or ingredients like it, the AP said.

Sailor, who has sworn off the drinks, said he said he knows some kids who "drink four or five of them a day. That's just dumb."

A member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' nutrition committee, Dr. Marcie Schneider of Greenwich, Conn., was pleased with the report for raising awareness about the drinks' risks, the AP said.

"These drinks have no benefit, no place in the diet of kids," Schneider said.

For the Pediatrics report, the authors reviewed 121 government reports, scientific papers, case reports and news articles.

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The drinks are different from sports drinks, and from energy drinks that contain alcohol, which the Food and Drug Administration banned in November, saying they were unsafe because of the added caffeine.

Last month, The Journal of the American Medical Association issued an advisory, saying the drinks could be a public health hazard.

"No regulation exists with regard to the level of caffeine that can be in an energy drink," said the report's co-author, Amelia Arria, noting that efforts to make alcoholic energy drinks unavailable was a good first step.
Filed under: Nation, Health
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