Can Children Drink Energy Drinks? Facts and Side Effects

There has been an alarming rise in children's consumption of energy drinks (among other things!) in many western countries. In some countries, it is likely that there are more children drinking them than adults. But what are these drinks and why is there now more concerns about them than before?



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Difference Between Sport Drinks and Energy Drinks

The general idea behind sport drinks is that they are supposed to replace water, carbohydrates and salts like sodium that athletes lose during physical activity.


It is important to note that this post is a general view of these drinks in relation to normal children with normal levels of physical activity. Children who are involved in competitive endurance sports or other sports that include prolonged periods of vigorous exercise or exercise in hot conditions have different guidance according to health professionals and you will need to speak to a doctor to get that sort of advice. This group of children will need more carbohydrate and energy than most other kids. Vitamins also sometimes added.

Side effects of energy drinks


Energy drinks mainly contain a stimulant like caffeine or guarana with the promise that they reduce tiredness and increase mental function. Now for adults, caffeine can increase physical performance and alertness. But there are some issues here: these effects are variable from one person to another and difficult to predict. Also, the doses of caffeine in various drinks can vary a lot. Most importantly, there has not been enough studies about its effects on children. What is safe for adults could have negative effects on children and, some people are particularly more sensitive to caffeine than others.

Let’s not forget that the effects of caffeine on the body are all positive. While you might need the “stimulant” effect for a short energy boost, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, etc, you don’t need these effects everyday, all day. Caffeine can also cause symptoms similar to anxiety and can affect mood and of course, sleep. Especially in children, taking excessive amounts of caffeine can lead to caffeine toxicity which according to the American Poison Control Center can range from mild such as hand shakes to more severe effects on the heart and nervous system such as seizures and coma!


Energy drinks also have a lot of sugar in them. The amount of each of caffeine and sugar in some energy drinks are more than the recommended daily dose for children. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health supports a ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s. The UK government is still in the process of implementing a ban, and some big supermarkets have already decided to follow the health care professionals’ advice and have introduced a ban.

Now, let's put this in the context of the current problem of childhood obesity many western countries are suffering from and you realize the problem is probably bigger than we thought. The excess sugar in these drinks is not needed and is likely more harmful to children, American researchers have suggested this in a study in 2011. The excess sugar and acid can also cause teeth damage.



If you want to read the details of the full studies mentioned in this post please see:
https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/energy-drinks-not-good-for-children/
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/6/1182

 

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. If you need to seek help for medical advice, please speak to your doctor or consult a health care professional.

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