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Energy drinks are all the rage these days, and with names like Red Bull, Monster and NOS and cans with bold graphics, they are being marketed to kids.
Our dietitian, Theresa Shank, shares 8 things parents need to know about energy drinks.
1. Are energy drinks safe for my child?
To answer this question bluntly, NO! Credible sources, such as The American Academy of Pediatrics advocate that “energy drinks pose potential health risks primarily because of stimulant content. Therefore, they are not appropriate for children and adolescents and should never be consumed.” 2. Do all energy drinks contain the same amount of caffeine? Many energy products come in different sizes with varying amounts of caffeine, all of which exceed what has been previously recognized as safe by the FDA for soda beverages (approximately 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces). For example Coca-Cola’s NOS energy product contains 260 milligrams of caffeine per 16 ounce can, which is equivalent to almost three, 8 ounce cups of coffee! 3. How do we know how much caffeine is in energy drinks?
Most energy drink manufactures do not list the caffeine content in the product on the nutritional facts label. 4. What is caffeine not listed on the nutritional facts label?
Energy drinks are regulated as dietary supplements, a designation that means the product label does not have to list caffeine content. Also, there are no limits to how much caffeine these products can contain. Some products have up to 500 milligrams of caffeine! 5. Is there a recommended daily amount of caffeine that is safe for children to consume?
Unfortunately, the United States has not established recommended limits for kids’ caffeine consumption. However, in Canada, it is recommended that children ages 4 to 6 get no more than 45 mg a day, children ages 7 to 9 get no more than 62.5 mg, and children ages 10 to 12 get no more than 85 mg. 6. How harmful are the effects of caffeine on my child?
Harmful effects related to the consumption of energy drinks include: increased systolic blood pressure, dehydration, caffeine toxicity, anxiety, convulsions and heart attack. 7. Aren’t energy drinks the same as sports drinks in that they are helpful for athletes?
No. Energy drinks are not performance enhancers and should not be consumed in place of sports drinks during exercise, especially by children. Sports drinks are flavored beverages that usually contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, and sometimes vitamins or other nutrients. Sports drinks are marketed to optimize athletic performance and replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat during and after exercise. Unlike sports drinks, energy drinks contain caffeine, excess amounts of sugar and stimulant ingredients-- all of which cause a concern for dehydration and other health risks, especially during physical activity. 8. What can we do ask parents to help prevent our children from drinking energy drinks?
Have a conversation with your children about the safety concerns and risks of consuming energy drinks. Encourage your children to consume drinks that have positive health benefits such as water, low fat milk and sports drinks such as Gatorade when participating in exercise for more than 90 minutes.