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Energy Drinks: Adverse Health Effects on Young People

Energy drinks are of the fastest growing beverage products on the global market. Consumption of energy drinks by young people is on the rise. The market value for it is continually growing and the annual worldwide consumption is increasing. Advertisers widely promote these as products that increase energy and enhance mental alertness and physical performance.  

Energy drinks are beverages that contain caffeine, taurine, vitamins, herbal supplements, and sugar or sweeteners and producers of these drinks market them as to improve energy, weight loss, stamina, athletic performance, and concentration.

infographic on the ingredients of energy drink

However, issues related to energy drink ingredients and the potential for adverse health consequences remain to be the topic of discussion.

What is in this article?

  1. Caffeine–The ingredient that matters
  2. Are Energy drinks and Sports drinks the same
  3. Associated Health risks of energy drinks in children
  4. Some highlights and Recommendations
  5. Conclusion
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

Caffeine–The ingredient that matters

letters of the word caffeine written in block and three coffee beans are shown

Energy drinks pose potential health risks for children and adolescents primarily. This is because of the frequently containing high and unregulated amounts of caffeine.

These drinks are reported in association with serious adverse effects, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavioural disorders.

Known for increasing mental alertness, this stimulant (caffeine) is the most widely consumed drug found in products like chocolate, coffee, teas and many sodas.

Caffeine is often thought of as a harmless drug. And that may be true if it is consumed in moderation, but these energy drinks contain between 70 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving.

Scientists agree that it’s OK for a healthy adult to have up to about 400 mg of caffeine per day (equivalent to four cups of coffee), but a teen, on the other hand, is an entirely different case.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids between the ages of 12 and 18 should not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine (a cup of coffee, a couple of cups of tea or about two sodas) per day.

There are more components in energy drinks apart from caffeine which act as stimulant. They also contain vitamin B, guarana, ginseng, green tea extracts and taurine, all known energy inducers.

Due to the natural bitterness of caffeine, they often add lots of sugar to these drinks to make them taste syrupy sweet. So along with a surge of energy, kids can get a sugar high, which ironically can lead to obesity.

Are Energy drinks and Sports drinks the same?

two bottles of sports drinks over a bench

There is a lot of confusion about sports drinks and energy drinks. Adolescents are often unaware of the differences in these products.

Sports drinks contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavourings are intended to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise. Although they may be useful for young athletes participating in prolonged, vigorous physical exercise, people overuse them and are usually unnecessary.

Some children are drinking energy drinks containing large amounts of caffeine, when their goal is simply to re-hydrate after exercise. This means they are consuming large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can be dangerous.

Experts say that simply the plain water is best for most children engaging in routine physical activity. Sports drinks contain extra calories that children do not need and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay.

It is better for children to drink water during and after exercise. And to have the recommended intake of juice and low-fat milk with meals.

Associated Health risks of energy drinks in children

a person drinking from a can under blue sky

High consumption of energy drinks may result in potentially dangerous health consequences in children, adolescents and young adults.

Numerous studies have reported the adverse outcomes associated with the excess consumption of energy drinks. These include liver damage, kidney failure, respiratory disorders, agitation, confusion, seizures, psychotic conditions, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, tachycardia, hypertension, myocardial infarction and heart failure.

Some highlights and Recommendations

Mostly young population consume large amount of energy drinks. Although, caffeine present in it has numerous physiologic effects including increasing aerobic endurance and strength as well as delaying fatigue among adults performing physical activity.

However, it can also have many unhealthy effects, particularly at high intakes. Children especially are at greater risk for harm related to caffeine.

Energy drinks can contain as much as 75 to 400 mg caffeine per container. With additional caffeine not included in the listed total often coming from additives such as guarana, kola nut, yerba mate, and cocoa.

Caffeine consumption should not exceed 100 mg/day or 2.5 mg/kg/day among children and adolescents. That means consumption of two energy drinks per day is inappropriate. Consumption of 4 to 12 mg/kg of caffeine can promote anxiety and jitteriness. Headache and fatigue are common symptoms after short-term, high-dose use of caffeine.

chemical structure of caffeine
Image: Chemical structure of caffeine.

Sports drinks are appropriate only among children participating in prolonged vigorous exercise. They are unnecessary during or after exercise for the majority of active children. You should continue to be promote water as the primary means of hydration at the approximate time of exercise.

Children and adolescents should avoid and restrict routine consumption of carbohydrate-containing sports drinks. Because, these can increase the risk for overweight, obesity and dental erosion.

Although some energy and sports drinks contain amino acids, routine dietary protein consumption is sufficient for muscle recovery for most children. Low-fat milk is a good option for post-exercise recovery. There is no advantage to consuming vitamins and minerals through drinks compared with diet.

Conclusion

As the consumption of energy drinks continue to gain popularity among young people, it’s adverse effect on health also need to be considered. Before consuming it you should thoroughly examine the negative health effects of the ingredients present in it.

Consumption of excess energy drinks can cause serious health issues such as heart problems, kidney failure, liver damage, dental problems and poor mental health.

At the end, it is the prime responsibility of parents to educate their children about the adverse health effects of energy drinks. They should encourage them to drink water routinely as the initial beverage of choice. Children should meet their caloric and minerals need through healthy dietary options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is energy drink?

Energy drink is a beverage produced and marketed by beverage production companies claiming the instant energy boost and fatigue relief for an athlete or general public.

What is sports drink?

Sports drink is a beverage produced with the primary intention to re-hydrate quickly for the loss of water during exercise or any physical activity.

Do energy drinks make you fat?

Energy drinks have caffeine as main ingredient which is very bitter in taste. So, to make it sweet they add a lot of sugars to make it sugar-sweetened. Therefore, high amount of sugar can raise your blood sugar and store more fat in your body.

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