Kids may get much more than they thirst for when they pop open a can of one of the popular energy drinks.
According to new findings from pediatric researchers at the Miller School, energy drinks may pose a risk for serious adverse health effects in some children, especially those with diabetes, seizures, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavior disorders.
The study, “Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents and Young Adults,” was published in the March 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics. In a review of the current literature, the authors determined that energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit to children, and both the known and unknown properties of the ingredients, combined with reports of toxicity, may put some children at risk for adverse health events.
Youth account for half of the energy drink market and, according to surveys, 30 to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming them. Typically, energy drinks contain high levels of stimulants such as caffeine, taurine, and guarana, for which safe consumption levels have not been established for most adolescents.
Since energy drinks are frequently marketed to athletes and at-risk young adults, the authors advised pediatric health care providers to screen for heavy use, either alone or with alcohol, and to educate families and children at risk for energy drink overdose, which can result in seizures, stroke, and even sudden death.
“Until further research establishes their safety, routine energy drinks usage by children and teenagers should be discouraged,” said Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., professor and chair of pediatrics, associate executive dean for child health and senior author of the study. “Our systematic review suggests that these drinks have no benefit and should not be a part of the diet of children and teens.”
Fourth-year Miller School medical student Sara M. Seifert was the lead author, under the mentorship of Lipshultz, and co-authors Judith Schaechter, M.D., M.B.A., and Eugene Hershorin, M.D., associate professors of clinical pediatrics and associate chairs of the Department of Pediatrics.