According to a study, one-third of teenagers (12-17 years) consume energy drinks regularly (1). Energy drinks contain added sugar, caffeine, additives, and also legal stimulants such as L-carnitine, taurine, and guarana. Although these stimulants are known to improve attention, alertness, and energy, the studies on these ingredients are not regulated (2).
Some teens consume energy drinks to get an instant boost of stamina. They usually drink to stay up at night or to feel energetic before any tournament or event. But how far is this right or safe for them? Keep reading this MomJunction post where we tell you about the safety and effects of energy drinks on the teenage body.
Types Of Energy Drinks
Energy drinks could be of two types:
- Drinks that come in containers, similar to soft drink
- Energy shots that come in small containers
In both the categories, caffeine is a major component. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, energy drinks contain a high amount of caffeine and stimulant substances, which should not be present in the regular diet of teenagers (2).
Why Teenagers Might Like To Drink Energy Drinks?
Energy drinks can provide some immediate benefits. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, controlled trials do show an improvement in the performance of young athletes due to energy drinks. But the institution states, “the majority of studies show an association with negative health effects (3).” Energy drinks provide short-term gains in energy and alertness. But research concludes that the negative effects of energy drinks prevail over the positive short-term benefits.
A study on the perception of energy drinks in the UK found that taste, promotion, price, ease of access, and peer influences are the major factors that influence the consumption of energy drinks among children and young people (4). It was noted that manufacturers indulged in ‘value-for-money’ pricing and other marketing activities that might make the beverage attractive.
The researchers concluded that “The lack of a single dominant factor suggests that there is unlikely to be a ‘silver bullet’ in attempting to address this issue.” It means there is no single reason why energy drinks are appealing. A combination of several factors, along with ease of availability and peer pressure, is the likely reason why teens are attracted to energy drinks. It makes it even more essential for teenagers and their parents to understand the side effects of energy drinks.
Side Effects Of Energy Drinks On Teenagers
According to the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, consuming energy drinks could have negative effects on the health of a teenager (1). High amounts of caffeine and additives in energy drinks can be harmful to teenagers’ health.
Here are a unfavorable effects of regular energy drink consumption:
- According to a report, teenagers who regularly take energy drinks might have a risk of sleep issues, poor learning, and poor performance. There could be at a higher risk of using drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol (5).
- Shobha Bhaskar, a pediatric hospitalist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, says that energy drinks are poor in nutrition, rich in sugar content, and high in caffeine. Drinking these beverages regularly could be harmful to teenagers (6).
- According to research by Chapman University, 40% of teenagers (aged 13-19) that consume energy drinks experience side effects such as insomnia, nausea and vomiting, jitteriness, headache, and abdominal pain. In some extreme cases, the teenager may experience seizures (7).
- The National Institutes of Health states that consuming high amounts of energy drinks may disrupt the sleeping patterns and might also increase risk-taking behavior (drug use, tobacco use, fighting) (8).
- Energy drinks contain guarana, caffeine, creatine, ginseng, taurine, and different amounts of vitamins, protein, carbohydrates, amino acids, and minerals. A mix of these compounds, along with caffeine, can lead to dehydration since caffeine is diuretic (9).
- According to the University of Utah, energy drinks may contain more than 500mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to 14 cans of caffeinated soft drinks (9). Such an amount of caffeine can be associated with caffeine toxicity.
- Certain energy drinks could contain alcohol. The manufacturers of alcoholic energy drinks do not include caffeine and other stimulants due to a ban by the US Food and Drug Administration (10). However, these drinks are still sold as ‘energy drinks’ since the drinks are reformulated with no added stimulants (11).
Note that there is an increased risk of these side effects only if the teen drinks the energy drinks regularly. A can of it occasionally may not cause any serious problems.
How Much Energy Drinks Can Teenagers Drink?
There is no designated safe limit of energy drink for teenagers.
Some teenagers might think that energy drinks help them stay awake, boost performance, or even help in growth. However, there is no scientific evidence to conclude these effects to be beneficial to the overall health of a teenager. They should be educated about the ill-effects of energy drinks and be encouraged to consume water and eat fresh fruit to meet the body’s demands while exercising.
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2. The Buzz on Energy Drinks; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
3. Energy Drinks; Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
4. S. Visram et al., Children and young people’s perceptions of energy drinks: A qualitative study; National Center for Biotechnology Information
5. E. J. Markey et al., Buzz Kill: A Survey of Popular Energy Drinks Finds Majority of the Market Unwilling to Make Commitments to Protect Adolescents
6. S. Bhaskar; The truth about teens and energy drinks; Childrensmd.org (2015)
7. Energy Drink Use in Teens has Adverse Effects; Chapman University (2018)
8. C. Pennington; The Effects of Energy Drinks on Adolescents; University of Connecticut (2010)
9. Buzz in a Bottle; University of Utah
10. Fact Sheets – Alcohol and Caffeine; US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
11. The Mix with Dangerous Risks: Energy Drinks and Alcohol Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board
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