High-caffeine energy drinks can have serious side effects

An Apple A Day By Laura Grief-King, Western Baptist dietitian

Being the mom of a 15-year-old boy, I am constantly faced with the battle of the dreaded energy drink. He not only drinks them, but also removes the vivid-colored can tops and wears them around his neck on a chain, as do some of his friends.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he says, while finishing the last sip. “This can is so cool, plus I don’t have it in my collection.” 

According to Energyfiend.com, some of the most popular energy drinks on the market today have from 135 to 240 milligrams of caffeine per can – the equivalent of three or four soft drinks, even those known to have higher-than-normal amounts of caffeine.

Western Baptist Dietitian Laura Grief-King A recent study reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics stated 30 to 50 percent of teens and young adults surveyed said they regularly consume energy drinks, some as many as four to five cans a day. 

This is an alarming statistic since pediatricians and dietitians warn these drinks can have very serious side effects, especially for young people with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, mood and behavioral disorders, or those who take certain medications. The study states high caffeine content of some of these drinks is associated with heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death. The study’s authors believe energy drinks pose a large enough risk to be regulated like tobacco and alcohol.

Last December, a 14-year-old Maryland girl, who had a mild heart condition, drank two 24-ounce energy drinks while at a mall. She went into cardiac arrest the next day and died six days later. The two 24-ounce energy drinks contained the same amount of caffeine as approximately 14 cans of cola, which is roughly five times the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there has been more than a 1000 percent increase in Emergency department visits across the country involving energy drinks since 2005.

Parents need to know:

  • Manufacturers are not required to list the caffeine content in their drinks.
  • Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit. They pose a danger, especially for children who purchase them without their parents’ knowledge, since very little is known about their contents, the effect they may have on children and how they interact with prescription medications.
  • Most energy drinks contain a large amount of caffeine, along with ingredients such as taurine and guarana that have stimulant properties of their own.
  • The marketing of these drinks suggest they are nutritional and beneficial, which adds to the risk of over consumption and overdose by youngsters.

Parents are urged to encourage their children to limit their consumption of energy drinks by talking with them about the risks and health hazards. Explain to them that advertising often misleads kids into believing that energy drinks are a healthy choice.

Send us your health and nutrition questions, and our team of dietitians will answer them each Thursday. Check here next week for more tips and answers to your questions.

About Baptist Health Paducah

Baptist Health Paducah is a regional medical and referral center, serving about 200,000 patients a year from four states. With more than 1,800 employees and 200 physicians, it offers a full range of services, including cardiac and cancer care, diagnostic imaging, women’s and children’s services, surgery, emergency treatment, rehabilitation and more. Since its humble beginning in 1953, Baptist Health Paducah has grown from 117 beds to 349 beds on a campus covering eight square blocks.
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One Response to High-caffeine energy drinks can have serious side effects

  1. Arlie Respes says:

    An energy drink is a type of beverage containing stimulant drugs, chiefly caffeine, which is marketed as providing mental or physical stimulation. There are myriad brands and varieties of energy drinks. They generally contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants. Many also contain sugar or other sweeteners, herbal extracts and amino acids and may or may not be carbonated. They are a subset of the larger group of energy products, which includes bars and gels.,

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