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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 02/15/2011

Study warns against energy drinks for kids, teens

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

A study in Monday's edition of the journal Pediatrics spells out everything you need to know about energy drinks, particularly the risks they pose to the young people who are most inclined to use them. Read it, and you'll never look at those drinks as benign products again.

The study reviews evidence from scientific journals and other publications about energy drinks and any ill effects associated with their use. Though serious adverse effects -- including heart failure -- are apparently relatively rare, it's been hard to track such events in the United States because until recently, there's been no poison-control code to specifically identify events tied to energy drinks. (The study notes that such a code has now been established.)

Caffeine in moderation can provide benefits, enhancing cognition, attention and physical endurance, for instance. But it's not clear to what degree, if any, those benefits extend to young people. Although the FDA limits the amount of caffeine in a soda to 71 mg per 12-ounce serving, energy drinks have so far eluded such restrictions because they are classified as dietary supplements. But the ingredients added to achieve that status are part of what makes energy drinks' potential dangers hard to pin down, as there is little research on their effects.

The Pediatrics paper calls for increased awareness from physicians of their patients' use of energy drinks and the potential health effects (particularly among athletes and children with conditions such as ADHD, diabetes or eating disorders). It also calls for further study of caffeine's effects on young people and of the effects of other energy-drink ingredients such as taurine and guarana. Finally, the authors suggest regulation of energy drinks may be in order if research turns up compelling evidence that the popular beverages cause harm.

I've been on the fence about energy drinks, even as recently as last week, when I blogged about another paper raising awareness of their use and misuse. I'm not big on the government's telling us what we can and can't eat and drink. But in the case of energy drinks -- whose prime audience is young males -- I agree that we should at least know what's in these drinks and what damage they might do if over-consumed.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | February 15, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cardiovascular Health, Dietary supplements, Family Health, Kids' health, Nutrition and Fitness, Sleep, Teens, heart failure  
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Let's go ahead and dispense with freedom of choice while we're at it.

All young people will be kept in cages and be fed through tubes, not be allowed to go outside since they may endanger their lives, not have sex until marriage, which is mandatory.
This will prepare them for their lives as cubicle dwellers where they are trained to go only from home to cubicle.

Posted by: SingleStepper | February 15, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Singlestepper, that is exactly what would be the case if (some) neuroscientists ran the world. At least the ones who experiment on caged rats, as that would be their model. After all, the consensus is that the brain is still developing until about age 25 or so. (New, cutting-edge research actually shows that it continues developing into the 40s in fact)

But as the saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed. For all that neuroscience has learned over the past century, they are still just barely scratching the surface. And just as they keep finding brain development continuing well past the point they thought it was fully developed, they may very well find in the future that lack of freedom during adolescence can stunt such development. It would pan out too, just look at the standardized test scores in countries where teens and young adults have more freedom than their American counterparts.

As for energy drinks, the best moral of the story is moderation, an unfortunately forgotten virtue in our society.


Posted by: ajax151 | February 15, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

" Read it, and you'll never look at those drinks as benign products again. "
By Jennifer LaRue Huget


OK, I read it, so what! Same junk propaganda over and over.

Posted by: DigestivePolitics | February 15, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I've been addicted to coffee and caffeine since I was 13 years old. Since it is the most used drug in the world, there is no chance it will ever be made illegal - because teenage males might abuse it. When you add booze to coffee it is called an Irish Coffee.

I suspect the real reason the Journal of Pediatrics is against energy drinks is because they also contains herbs other than coffee. Physicians and drug companies have been waging war against herbal medicine for decades, because it constitutes a financial threat to their livelihood.

The greatest health threat of energy drinks is that most of them are loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Posted by: alance | February 15, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

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