Energy drinks fuel concern for young people’s health

November 21, 2016 Providence Health Team

As the temporary boost of energy drinks remains popular with young teens and adults, studies continue to suggest that the side effects of these sugary, caffeine-filled beverages may leave a bad taste when it comes to one’s overall health.

According to a new report published in Pediatric Emergency Care, 33 percent of the 612 teens surveyed at two emergency rooms between June 2011 and June 2013 said they frequently consumed energy drinks. In the previous six months, 76 percent of the respondents were more likely to report headache, 47 percent reported anger and 24 percent reported increased urination.

The teens were more likely to say the energy drinks helped them do better in high school or in sports, helped them focus and helped them stay up at night.

The researchers also reported that teens who frequently drank energy drinks were “more likely to be involved in high-risk behaviors and more likely to consume other caffeinated drinks.”

Adding to the mix

In a recent energy drink and alcohol study, researchers reported that of 1,000 young adults surveyed, 57 percent said they consumed energy drinks in the last year and 71 percent of those respondents drank energy drinks with alcohol. Health groups warn against mixing energy drinks and alcohol, arguing energy drinks mask the depressant effects of alcohol.

Researchers from the American Academy of Pediatrics have argued that the stimulants in energy drinks have “no place in the diet of children and adolescents.” In fact, groups such as the Center of Science in the Public Interest have called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to add safety warnings to energy drinks, notifying consumers of the risk of heart attack, convulsion and other health risks.

In a 2014 letter to the FDA, the CSPI also asked that manufacturers lower caffeine levels in energy drinks to 0.02 percent, or 71 milligrams per 12 ounces—the maximum amount the FDA considers safe in cola-style beverages.

Pushing back

Meanwhile, energy drink companies insist their products are safe and that a link between their beverages and side effects can’t be confirmed. The companies also appear to be making their drinks bigger and with more sugar. For example, Monster’s new beverage, Mutant, is described as a “super soda” on the label. The 20-ounce drinks have about 70 grams of sugar  and 115 milligrams of caffeine. That’s twice the amount of sugar in some candy bars and 20 milligrams more caffeine than an average cup of coffee.

Studies continue to examine the potential links between energy drinks and unintended side effects, including high blood pressure, hyperactivity, insomnia, headaches and stomach aches.

If you or your child are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your health care provider about treatment. You can locate a provider in the Providence network in our multi-state directory.

More reading

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has information on the potential dangers of energy drinks. Click here to learn more

An abstract of the report “Clinical Symptoms and Adverse Effects Associated With Energy Drink Consumption in Adolescents” can be found here. The full report can be purchased.

Read the study on alcohol and energy drinks in the journal Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research by clicking here.

More information on alcohol and energy drinks can be found in the study “Energy Drink Use Patterns Among Young Adults: Associations with Drunk Driving,” published on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health website.

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