The Adverse Effects of Caffeine in Energy Drinks to Children

Posted: February 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm


A study published in the Pediatrics journal revealed that excessive intake of energy drinks can lead to strokes, heart palpitations and sudden death.

A group of medical professionals who reviewed data from case reports, scientific literature, and data from interest groups and government-funded studies say that the potential adverse effects of drinking caffeinated energy drinks include strokes, seizures, heart palpitations and even sudden death. They added that energy drinks are overused, under-studied and may be harmful to teens and children.

Their data review included the case of Dakota Sailor, an 18 year-old high school senior student from Carl Junction, Missouri. He experienced seizures and needed to be hospitalized for almost a week after drinking two large energy drinks. Sailor’s doctor said that the caffeine and similar ingredients may have been the primary cause. According to the study, a can of energy drink normally has 400 to 500 percent more caffeine content than soda. Sailor and other kids included in the study said that they consume an average of four to five cans of energy drinks in a day. The researchers want to have pediatricians warn parents and kids about drinking energy drinks.

Chairman of the pediatrics department of the University of Miami Medical School, Dr Steven Lipshultz, said that they are discouraging the habitual use of energy drinks. Their report included information indicating that energy drinks commonly contain ingredients that optimize the effects of caffeine, producing symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea. The researchers added that energy drinks need to be regulated like prescription medicines, alcohol and tobacco. However, the safety level of consumption of drinking energy drinks for young adults, adolescents, and children has not been clearly established.

The industry of energy drinks boom began 20 years ago with the United States as the fastest growing market; the sales of energy drinks is expected to amount to $9 billion by 2011. The study suggest that more than 30 percent of young adults and teens consume energy drinks but there is insufficient research on the long-term effects of energy drink consumption in children, especially those with medical conditions.

Alarming Facts

The study discovered that some energy drinks contain caffeine and alcohol. The US Food and Drug Administration had sent warning letters to manufacturers and banned certain energy drinks in different states due to the rising case of alcohol overdose. The American Association of Poison Control Centers implemented codes in early 2010 in an effort to track cases of energy drink overdose and side effects on national level. They found 677 cases from October to December and 331 year-to-date.

For 2011, most of the cases were in teens and children. With the 200 cases of energy drink poisoning, more than 25 percent of the involved children are aged younger than 6 years. Though this number is only a tiny fraction of the 2 million cases of poisoning due to other substances per year, the symptoms of energy drink poisoning are lengthy and extremely alarming like irritability, high blood pressure, chest pains, rapid heart rate, hallucinations and seizures.  Though there had not been any cases of death caused by energy drink overdose, there had been a few deaths in European teens and adults with epileptic conditions caused by mixing energy drinks with alcohol.

Science policy senior vice president from the American Beverage Association, Maureen Storey, said that the study did nothing but perpetuate misinformation regarding energy drinks. But the American Academy of Pediatrics commended the report for bringing awareness about the resulting risks of excessive energy drink intake.

High Caffeine Intake Can Impair Cognitive Function

Contrary to popular belief, high doses of caffeine which is common in most energy drinks have been found to impair the cognitive function of teens. Researchers from the Northern Kentucky University found that teens with the least consumption of caffeine responded more effectively to a reaction-time test than those who had higher consumption. Study participants who drank more caffeine felt less tired and more stimulated after the test, but they performed less efficiently on the test.

Head researcher, Cecile Marczinski, said that their findings are interesting since energy drinks are often used to counter the effects of drinking alcohol. She added that having a better understanding of the adverse effects of energy drinks is important since there is no regulation on energy drink labeling and health warnings in the United States.

The researchers used data from 80 college students aged 18 to 40. The researchers gave the study participants energy drinks with different levels of caffeine and found that those with the highest caffeine intake performed less in tests that gauged their response time. The results of the study were published in the December issue of the Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology journal.

Healthy Alternatives to Energy Drinks

There is a growing body of research studies revealing the adverse effects of excessive caffeine intake and energy drinking consumption. People, especially teens, tend to seek help from energy drinks in order to keep them functioning at their “peak performance”. But studies had found that the content of energy drinks, like caffeine and other stimulants, can result to different symptoms like palpitations, seizures and hypertension, and may also exacerbate an existing medical condition. So it is therefore recommended that one make use of healthy alternatives to energy drinks, such as:

  • Drinking water can be a healthy alternative to drinking energy drinks since the body tends to perform better if well-hydrated. Drinking plenty of water after a small meal can also help sustain the feeling of fullness and can also avoid the drowsiness caused by eating a heavy meal. Water is abundant and inexpensive, so there really is no need to waste your precious dollar on energy drinks.

  • Drinking water with a twist of lemon juice can give you a lift whenever you need one. Lemon is a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants and other nutrients that can help in keeping you well-energized.

  • Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee and energy drinks. But it can be an effective beverage to fight drowsiness and in stimulating the body and mind to stay awake and alert. Eating sweet fruits can also supply the body with enough energy to last the day.

Caffeine in coffee and other beverages can help in keeping your mind and body alert. But due to its adverse effects, medical and health professionals advise people to limit their consumption.

Sources
myhealthnewsdaily.com
news.yahoo.com
ecochildsplay.com

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