A new report on the use of energy drinks by American teenagers points out many health risks and concludes they are dangerous for both teens and young children.
Dr. Steven Lipshultz, the pediatrics chairman at the University of Miami's medical school, and several of his colleagues recently took a long hard look at the use of popular energy drinks by American teenagers and concluded that the drinks pose a serious health threat in the form of heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death. Dr. Lipshultz and his team warned in their report published in the medical journal Pediatrics that energy drinks are under-studied, overused and can be dangerous for both children and teens. The researchers reviewed data from the government, special interest groups, scientific literature, case reports and articles in popular and trade media and concluded that the drinks contain too much caffeine to be safe for young people.
Most versions of the energy drinks sold today contain four to five times more caffeine than soda and many teens drink four or five of them a day. Energy drinks are getting renewed scrutiny after a Maryland teenager died from caffeine toxicity when drinking "Mega Monster Energy Drinks" and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to look into the matter. In the latest report from Dr. Lipshultz and his team of researchers, the authors say they want more physicians to discourage the routine use of the drinks by children and teens. The report pointed out that most energy drinks also contain other stimulant ingredients that can enhance the effects of caffeine and can have other side effects including nausea and diarrhea and the researchers now recommend that energy drinks should be regulated as tightly as tobacco, alcohol and prescription medicines are.
Unfortunately, since their introduction about 20 years ago, energy drinks have become the fastest growing beverage on the U.S. market with annual sales topping $10 billion and research suggests that one-third of teens and young adults in the U.S. consume them regularly. However, there is also a distinct lack of research on the risks from long-term use and the effects in kids, especially children and teens with preexisting medical conditions that can increase the dangers. Unlike sodas and other caffeinated beverages, energy drinks are not required to list the amount of caffeine in them because they're classified by the FDA as dietary supplements. As a result, the nation's youngest consumers are unaware of just how much caffeine they might be consuming and that fact has contributed to over 300 reported cases of energy drink poisonings in the last year alone. The data also shows that more than half of those poisonings involved young children and teenagers.
Not everyone is happy with Dr. Lipshultz's report however, as energy drinks are big business in the U.S today and spokesmen from the American Beverage Association have said the report "does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation" about energy drinks. Despite the industry group's objections over the latest findings, a new clinical report on energy drinks is soon expected to come from the American Academy of Pediatrics that will hopefully contain new guidelines. If the beverage industry wants to continue profiting from energy drinks in the future, it will have to contend with the recommendations from the many pediatricians and adolescent medicine specialists who concur that the drinks have no real benefits, and thus they have no place at all in the diets of America's teenagers.
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