Energy Drinks: Our Youth’s Latest Health Scare

By Cole Purvis

Energy drinks are everywhere. From convenience stores to pharmacies, they are ever-increasing in popularity, particularly with our children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 50% of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 reportedly consume energy drinks. Increased consumption can be partly attributed to the industry’s adaptation of vibrant flavors and colorful packaging. This eye-catching marketing approach has captured the attention of our nation and its youth, but what does that mean for our children’s health?

What health risks do energy drinks present?

There has been an increase in deaths, hospitalizations and health problems related to energy drinks. A study from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that, from 2007 to 2011, the number of hospital visits because of energy drinks doubled. These trips to the emergency room were often associated with dehydration, heart complications, anxiety and insomnia resulting from energy drink consumption. According to research published by the Wayne State University School of Medicine, energy drinks have even been linked to seizures.

What is the culprit?

Among a sea of other stimulants and additives found in energy drinks, the key ingredient, and the one you should look out for, is caffeine. That is the same caffeine you would find in a cup of coffee or a can of soda.

However, the caffeine content in a typical energy drink matches or exceeds a cup of coffee, and more than doubles a typical can of soda. To put things in perspective, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents aged 12–18 should not exceed 100 milligrams of caffeine per day, which equates an average cup of coffee. An ordinary 16-ounce energy drink you would find in a store often surpasses this limit by almost 50%, if not more. This much caffeine presented in a flavorful, carbonated form can be a recipe for overconsumption and an overall adolescent health disaster.

What can we do?

The best way to ensure the safety of our children is by educating them, and ourselves, about the risks involved. Energy drinks have found shelf space across countless vendors throughout
the country, and they often hide under the guise of a “health supplement.” This is not to say the beverages should be banned or instead labeled as poison, but rather, it’s important for us all to proceed as cautious, thoughtful consumers.

Practicing smart decision-making as we stroll down the aisles of our local grocery store can make all the difference. Our bodies are a delicate system, and we should be wary of what we introduce to it. Understanding nutritional values and how they affect us, and our children, is essential to leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Instilling these lessons in our children while they are young can help shape them into more health-conscious individuals as they continue to grow.

 

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