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  • Writer's pictureDavid Kirsch

What's the Buzz on Adolescent and Teenage Consumption of Energy Drinks?

In a recent report on April 23, 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that energy drinks should be totally off - limits to kids and adolescents.

Here's the problem - the worldwide market is projected to increase to $84.8 billion by 2025, according to a report from the business consulting firm Grand View Research. Energy drinks are one of the most sought after beverages consumed by teens and young adults, with males between 18 and 34 drinking the most energy drinks. However, adolescents are reportedly the fastest-growing population of caffeine users in America. Research indicates 83% of teens drink caffeinated beverages regularly. and nearly 96% consume them occasionally. And that's a huge problem.

Specifically, one-third of kids ages 12 -17 are consuming energy drinks on a regular basis. Unfortunately, these drinks are widely promoted as products that increase energy and enhance mental alertness and physical performance. The companies who producing energy drinks do a fantastic job of marketing their beverages to young people. Ubiquitous at extreme sporting events, one can easily spot logos such as Red Bull or Monster at football games, Formula One races, or snowboard competitions, and at other popular sporting events. If that weren't enough, energy drink companies have sports personalities and celebrities 'hawking' their drinks and touting its myriad of benefits, and giving them the facade of being a "healthy" beverage that makes you perform better.

One of the things that is most disturbing to me is that the energy drink market is totally unregulated! You need to be 18 to get a drivers license, 21 to purchase and legally consume alcohol, and 18 to purchase cigarettes. Sadly, energy drinks can be purchased anywhere, anytime, without any age restrictions! Companies that produce energy drinks avoid regulatory constraints by classifying their drinks as dietary supplements. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates that amount of caffeine in sodas, but not in energy drinks.

Let's take a look at the top selling energy drinks and their nutritional profiles:

Red Bull - 8 oz serving - 37 grams of sugar (9 teaspoons of sugar!!), and 111 mg of caffeine (12

ounce cup of coffee). (a can of soda has 35 mg of caffeine) It also contains taurine and B vitamins which help boost energy

Red Bull - Sugar - Free - contains the artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame K, and Sucralose instead of sugar, which have recently been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

5 - Hour Energy - which contains both natural and artificial flavors, Sucralose and 200 mg. caffeine

Monster - (35 % share of the energy drink market - second only to Red BULL) - 8 0z serving - 29 grams of sugar and 85 mg of caffeine. Monster is also available in 16-ounce cans, which contains 2 servings (most often consumed at once)

Starbucks Frappuccino - 115 mg of caffeine (grande size caramel ) 380 calories, 54 grams of sugar, 105 mg of caffeine

Mountain Dew - (12 ounces) - 55 mg of caffeine, 65 grams of sugar

In researching this blog, I found a very disturbing statistic: According to the FDA, there have been 34 deaths attributed to energy drinks. Energy drink consumption has been associated with cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, spontaneous coronary dissection, and coronary vasospasm. Add to that, the high amount of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners and there really isn't any compelling reason adolescents and teens should be consuming energy drinks.

In a study from Chapman University, 40 % of teens reported an adverse effect while consuming energy drinks. These included:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Chest pains

  • Gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting and diahrrhea.

  • Headaches

  • Heart palpitations

  • Heightened anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Feeling jittery or experiencing tremors

  • Seizures

Researchers found about 15 % of teens mixed their energy drinks with alcohol and other drugs, making for a lethal combination. Specifically, The CDC reports that drinkers aged

15- 23 who mix alcohol with energy drinks are four times more likely to binge drink at high intensity (6 or more drinks per episode) than drinkers who do not mix alcohol with energy drinks.

In closing, it is clear that to ensure the safety of adolescents and teens, the following steps need to be taken:

  1. Energy drinks should not be marketed to kids and adolescents

  2. These products not be consumed before, during, or after vigorous exercise, since doing so has been linked to deaths

  3. We should do more to educate youth about energy drink consumption. It was suggested formal education about energy drinks be a part of school nutrition and covered in health and wellness classes

  4. Although some studies have found that energy drinks can improve physical endurance for a short period of time, BUT AT WHAT COST TO YOUR OVERALL HEALTH AND WELL - BEING?

  5. The best way for children and teens to improve energy is through a balanced diet. Getting enough sleep can help keep energy levels up as well.


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