Kids and teens should steer clear of energy drinks | CraigDailyPress.com

Kids and teens should steer clear of energy drinks

Lauren Blair

Energy drinks can give you a boost when you need it, but too much caffeine and stimulants can have harmful side effects, especially for kids and teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids stay away from caffeine.

— Everyone needs a little boost now and then, but some health experts have raised concerns about the possible dangers of energy drinks.

For adults, the adverse effects of energy drinks are somewhat less severe, but for children and adolescents, the consequences of consuming the beverages can be life-altering or even life-threatening.

Energy drinks contain stimulants in various combinations, such as caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng. A single bottle will sometimes contain two to three servings of the drink, with total caffeine content exceeding 400 to 500 milligrams per can or bottle in some cases.

By comparison, the average cup of coffee only contains about 150 milligrams of caffeine.

"Caution is warranted even for healthy adults who choose to consume energy beverages," according to the University of California Davis Department of Nutrition. "Adverse effects associated with caffeine consumption in amounts of 400 mg or more include nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, increased urination, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia), decreased bone levels and stomach upset."

For children and teens, the effects can be far more harmful, so much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that, "caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents."

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However, more kids are getting their hands on the potent beverages, and not always on purpose. A study presented at an American Heart Association meeting in November revealed that 40 percent of calls to U.S. poison control centers about energy drinks from 2010 to 2013 involved children younger than six.

Additionally, "in 2014, poison centers received reports of 2,810 exposures to energy drinks," according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers website. "Of those, 1,673 were children 18 and younger."

Like in adults, too much caffeine in young people can cause problems such as irregular heart rhythms, increased blood pressure, and even seizures. The AAP warns of the effects of caffeine on kids' developing neurological and cardiovascular systems.

To steer clear of the possible dangerous side effects, avoid consuming energy drinks while exercising — which can lead to dehydration and cardiac problems — and limit your intake. Consider switching to more natural alternatives such as coffee, tea or yerba mate, a naturally caffeinated herb used widely in Latin America and brewed much like tea.

Many energy drinks also contain large amounts of sugar, which can contribute to weight gain, diabetes and a host of other health maladies. So, next time you need a lift, consider your options before you reach for the can.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.