Recent news about the health effects of “energy drinks,” high-caffeine beverages that are increasingly popular among children and teenagers, should sound a note of caution for parents and health care providers, according to a University of Iowa Children’s Hospital physician.
“Common sense is key,” says George Phillips, MD, a pediatrician and sports medicine specialist. “It would be impractical for parents to ban caffeine beverages altogether. However, the concentration of caffeine in energy drinks, the lack of regulation of some additives in these products and the risks for young athletes who consume several cans to boost performance is a real concern.”
Energy drinks—typically containing caffeine, sugars, and other additives, and marketed as a way to improve energy, stamina and athletic performance—are consumed by as many as a third to a half of adolescents and young adults, according to an article published in the March 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics. The authors note that some energy drinks have four to five times more caffeine than soda pop. Other ingredients such as herbal supplements are understudied or unregulated.
Excessive consumption can lead to health risks such as heart palpitations or seizures, particularly among young people with heart problems, diabetes, mood disorders or other conditions.
“Parents should be aware of which beverages, and how much, their kids are consuming. Doctors and health experts are continuing to learn more about the specific health effects to help educate families,” Phillips says.