Energy Drinks and Kids: A Terrible Combination
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Energy drinks have been growing in popularity over the past 10 years (Caffeine Informer). While soda sales have been declining steadily, the energy drink business has been growing each year, making up 10 billion dollars in sales over the past year in the United States. However, there has been controversy over the health ramifications of the sales of energy drinks, especially to minors.
Energy drinks are different from your average cup of coffee or caffeinated soda. The average cup of coffee normally has about 95 milligrams of caffeine, but the some energy drinks have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine (Cleveland Clinic). The FDA (Food and Drug Association) says that the acceptable amount of caffeine for a grown adult is 400 milligrams, but the FDA doesn’t say anything about an acceptable amount for kids and teens. Most pediatric societies say that kids shouldn’t have any caffeine at all, as it can stunt their growth and cause irritability or insomnia.
Often pediatricians have had to worry about coffee drinks, which have some coffee, but coffee drinks are mostly just empty calories of milk and sugar with a little coffee. Energy drinks are a different ballpark. Not only do they have more caffeine than the average cup of coffee, but they also often use pharmaceutical grade caffeine as well as caffeine from natural sources. Aside from that jittery feeling, prolonged consumption can lead to heart arrhythmia and, in come cases, seizures. According to the American Heart Association, 40% of the poison control center calls regarding energy drinks were related to children under 6 years old. In one extreme case, a 16 year old died in a cardiac event due to caffeine and energy drink consumption.
At this point, there is some discussion over trying to limit the consumption of energy drinks for minors. The United Kingdom is currently moving to ban the sale of energy drinks to anyone under the age of 16 (news.com.au). Scotland has already gone forward to ban the sales of energy drinks at leisure centers, gyms, and sports centers. Many hospitals in Scotland have also been banning the sale to minors under 16 as well (BBC). Part of the UK ban is part of a bid to cut down on obesity in minors, since energy drinks are often also packed with sugar. At this point, the United States hasn’t been following suit just yet. Connecticut is currently debating a ban on energy drinks to kids, which would be the first in the nation.
Energy drinks, while they have been rising in popularity, have come under more health scrutiny, including a move to ban energy drinks to kids under 16. Energy drinks have been causing health problems in kids, including heart arrhythmia and seizures. It doesn’t seem very likely that there will be an outright ban at any point, since adults will handle energy drinks better than kids and can make better decisions about whether they should consume them. Because these drinks have been gaining popularity, we will have to watch for more developments across the world on how both energy drinks and governments will deal with this new scrutiny.